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. Kauaʻi 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 Kapaʻa. 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.

A sat­is­fy­ing­ly crusty whole­grain and rye loaf.

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

Seed Bread: an assertive crust, a fine, moist crumb and loaded with seeds.

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 8020 blend. The results have been delicious.

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