October 3rd, 2011
Several recent events have brought us to breadmaking: the substantial rise in price for a decent organic loaf, and the closure of our local bread bakery, Rising Moon. Kauai is not a place of many bakeries, we have maybe 3 or 4 of the “artisan” type, so when we lost the closest, biggest one, we had only one bakery serving our area: Pueo Breads in Lihue, formerly of Hanapepe. Pueo is good, but the cost is great, so perhaps an alternative makes a higher-quality use of our time.
I have baked bread of various kinds in restaurant settings through the years, most recently at the (now defunct) Lotus Root in Kapaa. Lisa, too, has baking experience, also most recently at the root. We knew it was possible to make our own bread without much drama.
When we lived with Rich and Virginia in Maui, Virginia had a homemade rye bread she made regularly, a slightly sour, pure rye bread which was naturally fermented with a starter (technically, a “sour”). It rose and bubbled and poured into the loaf pans like a thick batter. It was hearty in a way that most things called “hearty” are not, because most of the time the word is used simply because it sounds good–not here. “Virginia bread” is nourishing and substantial, very good toasted. “Is” because we met up with Virginia last month at a wedding at Anini beach, and she passed some of her starter to us.
At first, we made a few of her delicious pumpernickel-style loaves, sour, toothsome and moist. But I wanted to explore a broader range of styles and went looking for ways to get the crusty European-style hearth breads we are generally unable to get from a local baker. What I learned was that people had been figuring out how to do this at home with simple, reliable techniques for some time now.
So, after reading up a bit, I began working with cold fermented doughs. It’s been incredibly satisfying and productive making these breads. It works into my day very well; no need to spend several hours in the kitchen, everything is done in short bursts of activity punctuated by waiting (also known as doing something else). One big advantage (there are several) of working the fermentation cold is you can ferment from 8 hours to 4 days–whatever works for your schedule. Now, once you take it out, form your loaves and proof them, they must be baked when ready, so you can’t
have quite so much flexibility with the bake-off phase.
I’ve been following Peter Reinhart’s latest book, Artisan Breads Every Day, and it’s been quite a successful and inspiring jumping-off-point. My desire is to make more densely whole-grain breads than the book contains, but he gives you the guidelines to proceed. We have been making our own sprouted grain flours (meals, really) by sprouting whole grains, then drying and grinding them in the Vita-Mix. I have been mixing these sprouted grain meals with commercial organic flour at about 50/50, far heavier than Rienhart’s recommended 80/20 blend. The results have been delicious.