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Can I Make Bread?

Many people I talk to express an interest in making their own bread. Some may have tried it with little or no success. Others may find it too intimidating to even try.

I still feel like a pretender … a novice who has learned a thing or two, but with a long way to go to being a baker of any standing. But I’ve been baking regularly for eight years. I’ve been on the baker’s path, finding my own way. I can say a few things.

Here is my advice to those who want to bake their own bread: Go the library, or your local bookstore and pick up My Bread by the legendary New York baker, Jim Lahey.

The no-knead leap

He’s the one who made the “No-Knead” recipe famous.

Follow the basic recipe for bread at the beginning of the book, and right away, you’ll have bread that is an order of magnitude better than anything you’ll find at the grocery store.

It takes longer to make one of these loaves than you might hope — almost 20 hours start to finish. But that involves only 20 minutes of hands-on time. The rest of the time, the bread ferments on its own and bakes in the oven on its own.

Pull it out of your dutch oven 1 or casserole pot, and you’ll have a beautiful loaf of great tasting, crusty bread. Your family and friends will think you’re a genius! The loaf will disappear in an instant down the throats of salivating table guests. You can start another one right away.

Suddenly you’re a bread genius

If you’re looking for a positive bread-making experience, no-knead is the way to go. If you follow the instructions carefully, it’s fail-safe! And delicious! Believe me!

The Lahey method, though, uses commercial yeast. It isn’t sourdough, strictly speaking, but the long proofing time allows for some dough fermentation, which accounts for the close-to-sourdough flavour.

My Bread offers other recipes to keep you interested. All use the same method. You can make whole wheat and rye loaves, olive, cheese, and pancetta breads. You can delve into ciabatta and stirato (Italian baguette). Other parts of the book offer suggestions for sandwich fillings and oven pan pizza.

Maybe that will be all you need to satisfy your bread baking itch!

But with all that success, you may begin to hear the siren sound of sourdough calling. Maybe you’ll hear it in your dreams, maybe when you’re mixing the 27th loaf of no-knead whole wheat bread.

“How much better can sourdough taste?” you’ll wonder.

Siren sound of Sourdough: the Tartine Country Loaf

Time to move on to Chad Robertson! Lahey may be legend, Chad is a baker celebrity. Some think he’s a genius, others are not so generous. But he’s carried many aspiring bakers into the sourdough realm, myself included.

Start with Tartine Bread. I’ve mentioned it here before. It contains the legendary 24-page recipe for his Basic Country Bread. Thirty-four pages, if you include the in-depth descriptions of each stage.

Those 34 pages haunted me before I even tried baking a loaf. I dreamed about it, I thought it was too difficult. But I craved the taste of Robertson’s ideal bread:

The loaf would be baked dark, and the substantial, blistered crust would hold some give while containing a voluptuous, wildly open crumb with the sweet character of natural fermentation and a subtle, balanced acidity. The bread would be a joy to eat and would keep well for a week.

Chad Robertson, Tartine Bread, 2010, page 8

I was swept along by this fantasy. It was easy to go along with Robertson. But there were hurdles.

There was the matter of the sourdough starter, the culture of microorganisms — wild yeasts and bacteria present in the flour, air and the baker’s hands — that is used to leaven and flavour the bread. It could take up to a week to get it properly bubbling. It took me several tries.

Where “No-Knead” bread took less than 24 hours to produce a finished loaf, I was well into a week before I could even start mixing dough.

Driven by obsesssion

I read the formula and description at least 30 times before I tried a bake. My first attempt was a great success! The crumb was open and pearl hued. The loaf had big oven spring, though that first crust was not quite “baked dark” enough, in my estimation. A minor imperfection, though. I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

Subsequent bakes were not so satisfying. And thus began my real learning. Endless reading, note-taking, Facebook and Instagram bread baking feeds, multiple bakes, different methods. I reached out to a prominent bread blogger, Francis Olive 2 the author of Girl Meets Rye and its earlier incarnation, Tartine Bread Experiment. She was similarly captivated by Chad Robertson and Tartine Bread, at least in the beginning.

She helped me on several fronts, but her great achievement was giving me confidence that my baking knowledge and technique was just fine!

The journey is long …

Everyone has their own bread journey. Some may not be as tortured or long-winded as mine.

Many books additional to the ones mentioned here were helpful along the way:

  • Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman – the most substantive and authoritative on baking techniques
  • Tartine No. 3 by Chad Robertson – great exploration of alternative grains, seeds and other breads
  • The Sourdough School by Vanessa Kimbell – different take on sourdough as health health alternative
  • Dough by Richard Bertinet – yeasted breads and great explorations of techniques
  • From the Wood-Fired Oven by Richard Miscovich
  • The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart – collection of different different breads and traditions
  • The Bread Builders by Daniel Wing and Alan Scott – profiles of bakers, bakeries and wood-fired ovens.
  • The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book by Laurel Robertson – old school … great section on Desem Bread.
  • The Tassajara Bread Book by Edward Espe Brown – old school … early adopter of pre-fermented doughs.

Driven by an obsession, these were the voices that made me believe I could make bread. There was much dough, many mistakes. And I was also driven by self-criticism, such that many of my triumphs were recognized as flawed successes.

I heard myself saying to some, “The best bread you can eat is a loaf made by yourself.” I encourage you to make your own bread so that you can enjoy not just the flavour, but the fact that you made it yourself.

Happy Monk Tidings - Baker's Choice: Pender Island Happy Monk Tidings - Baker's Choice: Pender Island Apple Bread; Happy Monk Blog: A Water World; And Please Note: We're taking a Bread Break for Two Weeks! - [ See link in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - Baker's Choice: Pender Island Apple Bread; Happy Monk Blog: A Water World; And Please Note: We're taking a Bread Break for Two Weeks! - [ See link in Profile ] ...

35 2

Rugbrød going out Sunday morning, for smørrebrød at lunch! For all to enjoy, but especially for my two Danish friends who have been clamouring for this Danish style rye for weeks! And @ellasharpmorton just back from Denmark, triumphant from her artistic conquests and rugbrød in her tummy!
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#rye #ryebread #rugbrød #danishrye #danishryebread #smørrebrød #openfacedsandwich #openfacesandwich #openfacedsandwiches #woodfiredovens #woodfiredbread #woodfiredryebread #breadhead #happymonkbakery #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakingcompany #bbga #southpenderisland #southpender #penderislandbc #penderisland
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Happy Monk Tidings - Baker's Choice: Danish Rye (R Happy Monk Tidings - Baker's Choice: Danish Rye (Rugbrød); My daughter, Ella Morton's art exhibits; Blog Post: Coronavirus in the Sky; PLUS: Wood-fired Oven Update - [ See link in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - Baker's Choice: Danish Rye (Rugbrød); My daughter, Ella Morton's art exhibits; Blog Post: Coronavirus in the Sky; PLUS: Wood-fired Oven Update - [ See link in Profile ] ...

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Happy Tidings from the Happy Monk Baking Company - Happy Tidings from the Happy Monk Baking Company - Baker's Choice: Rye-Currant Pan Loaf; Blog Re-Post: The Island Within; And Mildrith Gratitude - [ See link in profile ]

Happy Tidings from the Happy Monk Baking Company - Baker's Choice: Rye-Currant Pan Loaf; Blog Re-Post: The Island Within; And Mildrith Gratitude - [ See link in profile ] ...

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Pillowy, sesame-flecked loaves of Harvest Bread, o Pillowy, sesame-flecked loaves of Harvest Bread, or Struan Bread by another name. You throw in a little of whatever grain and meal you have, in this case oats, cooked brown rice, cornmeal, drizzle some Pender Island honey, lots of wholegrain flour. And make it with sourdough! A glorious, flavourful loaf, tender. Sublime when eaten hot from the toaster, schmeared with salted butter.
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#struanbread #harvestbread #pillowybread #woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #peterreinhart #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #sourdough #sourdoughbread #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany

Pillowy, sesame-flecked loaves of Harvest Bread, or Struan Bread by another name. You throw in a little of whatever grain and meal you have, in this case oats, cooked brown rice, cornmeal, drizzle some Pender Island honey, lots of wholegrain flour. And make it with sourdough! A glorious, flavourful loaf, tender. Sublime when eaten hot from the toaster, schmeared with salted butter.
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#struanbread #harvestbread #pillowybread #woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #peterreinhart #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #sourdough #sourdoughbread #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbakers #southerngulfislandsbakeries #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany
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Happy Monk Tidings - Baker's Choice: Struan Bread; Happy Monk Tidings - Baker's Choice: Struan Bread; Happy Monk Blog: Revisiting Rachel Carson and her landmark Silent Spring - [ See Link in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - Baker's Choice: Struan Bread; Happy Monk Blog: Revisiting Rachel Carson and her landmark Silent Spring - [ See Link in Profile ] ...

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#happymonkbaking Seed Feast!
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#sourdough #sourdoughbread #bread #breadhead #woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredbread #redfife #redfifewheat #seedbread #realbread #bbga
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Thank God for dappled things ... Happy Monk breads Thank God for dappled things ... Happy Monk breads do not involve the death of any trees. The wood used to heat  Mildrith the wood-fired oven comes from wind-fallen trees on Pender Island which are donated by property owners for a tax receipt. They are then bucked and chopped by volunteers of the Green Angel Choppers and sold  to Pender residents for the going rate of $350 for a cord of firewood. Proceeds are then put into worthy community projects, such as funding solar energy panels for the community hall.  The Happy Monk Baking Company is just one stakeholder in a chain of community “pay it forward” endeavor!
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#community #payitforward #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakingcompany #woodfiredovens #woodfiredoven #woodfiredbread #woodfiredhottubs #woodfiredbaking

Thank God for dappled things ... Happy Monk breads do not involve the death of any trees. The wood used to heat Mildrith the wood-fired oven comes from wind-fallen trees on Pender Island which are donated by property owners for a tax receipt. They are then bucked and chopped by volunteers of the Green Angel Choppers and sold to Pender residents for the going rate of $350 for a cord of firewood. Proceeds are then put into worthy community projects, such as funding solar energy panels for the community hall. The Happy Monk Baking Company is just one stakeholder in a chain of community “pay it forward” endeavor!
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#community #payitforward #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakingcompany #woodfiredovens #woodfiredoven #woodfiredbread #woodfiredhottubs #woodfiredbaking
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Happy Monk Tidings - July 29 - Baker's Choice this Happy Monk Tidings - July 29 - Baker's Choice this week: Rye-Buttermilk Loaf; Happy Monk Blog: The Pandemic is Beginning to Leave Its Mark. Again! [ See Link in Profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings - July 29 - Baker's Choice this week: Rye-Buttermilk Loaf; Happy Monk Blog: The Pandemic is Beginning to Leave Its Mark. Again! [ See Link in Profile ] ...

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‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot, But bei ‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
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#johnkeats #johnkeatspoems #odetoanightingale #summer #poetry

‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
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#johnkeats #johnkeatspoems #odetoanightingale #summer #poetry
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Spelt-Honey loaves get a dose of Barry’s Bees ho Spelt-Honey loaves get a dose of Barry’s Bees honey for tomorrow’s Baker’s Choice bread. This is really delicious honey and it comes from our fair Pender Isle! Beautiful aroma and subtle flower taste!  Can’t wait to start pulling these loaves out of Mildrith, the wood-fired oven!
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#honey #honeybread #spelt #speltbread #sourdough #sourdoughbread #artisanbread #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #baker #bakery #bbga #realbread #breadhead #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany

Spelt-Honey loaves get a dose of Barry’s Bees honey for tomorrow’s Baker’s Choice bread. This is really delicious honey and it comes from our fair Pender Isle! Beautiful aroma and subtle flower taste! Can’t wait to start pulling these loaves out of Mildrith, the wood-fired oven!
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#honey #honeybread #spelt #speltbread #sourdough #sourdoughbread #artisanbread #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #baker #bakery #bbga #realbread #breadhead #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany
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Happy Monk Tidings - This week's Baker's Choice: Spelt and Honey Loaf, featuring Barry's Bees Honey!; And Blog Excerpt: Confessions of a Would-Be Baker [ See Link in Profile ] ...

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Happy Monk Tidings: Baker's Choice: Mountain Rye f Happy Monk Tidings: Baker's Choice: Mountain Rye for the rye aficionados and the Happy Monk Blog: This Living Rock Island - [ See link in profile ]

Happy Monk Tidings: Baker's Choice: Mountain Rye for the rye aficionados and the Happy Monk Blog: This Living Rock Island - [ See link in profile ] ...

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The signature of a real wood-fired oven, written o The signature of a real wood-fired oven, written on the backside of a Salish Sourdough loaf from last week. You can see the rectangular impressions of the hearth firebricks. This is as good as a certificate of authenticity, made by Mildrith and the Happy Monk, South Pender Island!😃 you won’t see it in pan loaves, though. Look for it next time you open up a bag of HM bread! 
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany

The signature of a real wood-fired oven, written on the backside of a Salish Sourdough loaf from last week. You can see the rectangular impressions of the hearth firebricks. This is as good as a certificate of authenticity, made by Mildrith and the Happy Monk, South Pender Island!😃 you won’t see it in pan loaves, though. Look for it next time you open up a bag of HM bread!
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany
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Sourdough Pan Loaf raised on a pedestal.
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #sourdough #sourdoughbread #sandwichloaf #panloaf #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany
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Olive Loaf, with a couple of Kalamatas winking at Olive Loaf, with a couple of Kalamatas winking at you from the crust. .
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #olives #olivebread #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany

Olive Loaf, with a couple of Kalamatas winking at you from the crust. .
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #olives #olivebread #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany
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45 0
Inside Mildrith yesterday morning, 11 Salish Sourd Inside Mildrith yesterday morning, 11 Salish Sourdoughs risen and baked exuberantly to a luscious golden colour. The oven had baked two loads previously and it’s still just shy of 500ºF in there. She’s my inanimate love with a soul!
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany

Inside Mildrith yesterday morning, 11 Salish Sourdoughs risen and baked exuberantly to a luscious golden colour. The oven had baked two loads previously and it’s still just shy of 500ºF in there. She’s my inanimate love with a soul!
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #bread #realbread #naturallyleavened #baker #bakery #bbga #artisanbread #breadhead #sourdough #sourdoughbread #penderisland #southpenderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakery #happymonkbakingcompany
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55 0
100% Rye with Currants, a happy loaf to enjoy on t 100% Rye with Currants, a happy loaf to enjoy on this day of rest. .
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #sourdough #sourdoughbaking #sourdoughbread #rye #ryebread #ryebaking #ryecurrantbread #southpender #southpenderisland #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbc #penderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakingcompany #happymonkbakery #bbga

100% Rye with Currants, a happy loaf to enjoy on this day of rest. .
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#woodfired #woodfiredoven #woodfiredovenbread #sourdough #sourdoughbaking #sourdoughbread #rye #ryebread #ryebaking #ryecurrantbread #southpender #southpenderisland #southerngulfislands #southerngulfislandsbc #penderisland #happymonkbaking #happymonkbakingcompany #happymonkbakery #bbga
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  1. No-knead and many home-baked breads can be baked in these vessels

  2. I visited her in Los Angeles two years ago. While she is still an avid baker, she has become a fashion designer, of rust-dyed aprons and textiles and francisolive handmade, a line of beautiful clothing items based on unique textiles, handmade

1 thought on “Can I Make Bread?

  1. […] in this age of lushly illustrated cookbooks, it looks like something from a different time. The title printed in calligraphic type, the […]

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