Bread Alone: Bold Fresh

Bread Alone: Bold Fresh

by Daniel Leader, Bread Alone, Judith Blahnik

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"Good bread is hard to find and easy to make," says Dan Leader as he draws you into the ancient world of traditional bread baking. Unlike any other bread book, Bread Alone will provide you with a comprehensive guide to creating—at home—the country-style breads that have consistently captured the imagination and the taste buds of the world.

In a

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"Good bread is hard to find and easy to make," says Dan Leader as he draws you into the ancient world of traditional bread baking. Unlike any other bread book, Bread Alone will provide you with a comprehensive guide to creating—at home—the country-style breads that have consistently captured the imagination and the taste buds of the world.

In a richly told tale, Leader chronicles his crossings of America and Europe to locate the most vital ingredients at the source, to learn from the methods of the world's great bakers, and to perfect their traditional techniques. His recipes are ones that have been used for centuries: large sourdough ryes, rich and dark raisin pumpernickel loaves, real French pain au levain, big round wheats with walnuts, crusty baguettes, high and airy breads, and more. Made from organic, stone-ground grains, these breads are slow-leavened, hand-shaped, and baked to perfection on heated baking tiles. As you read through the recipes, you can almost smell the ancient aroma of baking bread. And as you begin to bake, you will learn the importance of the primary ingredient in great bread: your own observations.

These are some of the breads and techniques you will master:

  • In the chapter "Becoming Bread," you will learn to identify and shop for the highest quality flour available. And you will seek it out because you'll taste the difference.

  • Making a poolish will become second nature to you as you master the Learning Recipe: Classic Country-Style Hearth Loaf and its delicious variations.

  • Whatever your schedule, there is a bread for you. In the chapter "Straight-Dough Breads: Traditional Breads for a Modern Life-Style," you are shown how to start and finish a recipe in five hours, or morning-to-night, or night-to-night.

  • You will bake sourdough bread in its many forms. By gently introducing the concept of sourdough—how it is made, how it is maintained, and how to get the best flavor from it—Leader demystifies it and makes it accessible to you.

  • Discover the wonders of rye bread: From the dense and chewy Finnish Sour Rye to the fragrant Danish Light Rye, everyone's tastes are served.

  • The mystery of pain au levain, French for "bread from a sourdough or wild yeast," unfolds into an understandable, user-friendly process. From My Personal Favorite Pain au Levain, a typical large Parisian loaf, to Pain au Levain with Pecans and Dried Cherries, the "Family of Traditional Pain au Levain" includes some of the best loaves baked around the world.

  • A perfect baguette is a beautiful thing. From shaping to scoring, you will learn how to make the authentic French baguette at home.

  • The purpose of an organic certifier—find out how and why one farmer becomes dedicated to his role as land steward.

  • Brioche, Chocolate-Apricot Kugelhopf, Panettone, and Semolina Sesame Rolls are a few recipes you will find in "A Family of Breads Inspired by Traditional French and Italian Breads."

  • Finally, when a quick bread is all you have time to bake, you will find recipes for such delights as Vanilla Bean Butter Loaf; Dried Pear, Port, and Poppy Seed Loaf; and Provolone Sage Corn Loaf.

Bread Alone is the bread book that cooks and bakers have been waiting for. From the wheat fields of the Midwest to the hot and steamy boulangeries of Paris, you will travel the long and delicious road to flawless bread baking. You will emerge a better baker and with a deeper understanding of what it takes to make perfect loaves. Bakers entertain you with stories of their love of baking (even in the most adverse situations). Bread Alone is the bible of bread books and a must-have for bread lovers everywhere.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Here is a wonderful collection of delicious recipes and bread lore. Leader, a former New York City restaurant chef, runs Bread Alone, a popular Woodstock, New York, bakery well known for its breads baked in wood-fired brick ovens. Blahnik is a food writer and editor. Leader is an example of the dedicated artisans described in Joe Ortiz's excellent The Village Baker ( LJ 12/92); as he became increasingly fascinated with bread-making, he traveled to Europe and throughout the United States to uncover the secrets of the craft. The results are his traditional and ``tradition-based'' breads such as Country-Style Loaf with Herbs and Onion, Sourdough Rye, and Pain au Levain with Olives and Rosemary. The recipes are extremely detailed, and the accounts of Leader's adventures in the world of bread bakers are both readable and fun. Highly recommended.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.12(d)

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Bread Alone: Bold Fresh

By Daniel Leader

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006

Daniel Leader

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0688092616

Chapter One


Two hundred and thirty big country loaves are just about ready to come out of the oven. Five more minutes, I think to myself--any longer would burn some, and any less would leave others raw and doughy. I stand in front of the oven and wait. It's the only time I'll have to stand still, and I like it. I take the chance to admire the oven for maybe the thousandth time. I love looking at it--tall, wide, deep, beautifully solid red brick, with a wood fire that emits soft inescapable heat. Forty minutes ago these breads were loaded into the oven; the last flames have died, but I can still feel the burn of the heat. Sometimes it's so intense itturns the arched bricks of the hearth inside ash-white. To weather it, I work in tanktop, shorts, and sneakers--winter, spring, summer, and fall.

I can't see how the breads are doing now, but I want to. Any one of the four rectangular iron doors would easily swing open if I tapped on it with the paddle end of my fourteen-foot-long baker's peel. But I resist. I don't want to disrupt the balance of heat, time, and baking inside. The aroma from the oven is tender-sweet, not at all the strong toasted smell that signals burning crust. A few more minutes, I say to myself. I wait.

I glance at my hands curled around the smooth handle of the peel. As usual, they are gloved with flour.There's flour under my fingernails and the same creamy dust coats every hair on my arms up to my elbows. My palms have become like dough itself, warm and soft. Almost every baker I've met for the first time has shook my hand with the same kind of smooth and dusty palm I have now.

The fragrance in the air has changed somewhat--not so sweet, slightly toasted. I tip open a door and the bright hearth light illuminates the breads, a sea of round caramel-colored loaves, each one domed and glowing. A vision of abundance, they sit on the brick hearth in neat rows, looking so swollen they could explode. I pull one out and look at it carefully. Its vibrant reddish-brown crust has expanded beautifully. I turn it over and give the bottom a thump with my finger: the sound is hollow. Done to perfection. The loaf is very hot, so I quickly place it on the cooling rack. As I do, I hear its crust begin to crackle and pop. All the loaves will do the same, as the hot and puffy crusts contract slightly when they meet the cooler air.

I begin to work quickly, sliding the peel under as many loaves as possible at a time, then pulling them out and sliding them onto the wire cooling racks nearby. I have to hustle to get the breads out before they toast too dark, because even with the doors open, the hearth and oven remain extremely hot and the breads will continue to bake. Heat pours out into the room while I work hear the open face of the oven, shoving the long-handled peel deeper each time to retrieve more loaves. They are so hot it feels as if I'm pulling fire from fire. If I can keep a consistent rhythm going, I'll get to the loaves in the back just at the right moment. They always take a little longer to bake than the breads in front.
Halfway through I examine another loaf.

It has a very good color and aroma, but an odd knot on the top makes it imperfectly round. It makes me smile, and I place it on the rack with the others. There will be many more like it.

Fifteen minutes later the cooling racks are full and crackling with new breads. Not one burned or toasted too dark. I take the one that has been cooling the longest and hold it up to my face with both hands. The sweet wheat fragrance makes my mouth water. I press with my thumbs until the crust fractures and a sweet grain aroma rises from within. I share the loaf with the other bakers.

The vacant hearth floor has cooled some and the cavernous oven, looking like the open mouth of a hungry animal, awaits the next doughy raw loaves. With a weathered wrought-iron hook, I open the damper to the oven, remove the empty cast-iron water bucket, and lift the heavy iron collar into its housing over the firebox; this will direct the flames into the oven for the next firing. Next, I open the firebox door and immediately feel the rush of coal-red heat on my legs. I take a shovel and level the piles of burning embers. Then I go through the back door of the bakery to the woodpile outside. The chilly autumn air invigorates my hot skin. There's a wheelbarrow sitting nearby, and eventually I've piled it high with split logs for a fresh fire. When I stoke the coals in the firebox with the new wood, the logs explode into flames.

I am hypnotized by the fire--a rich, primitive, organic power. I stare into it as it grows and gains force, and my imagination is fed by the flames. Sometimes I see memories come alive in the quick strokes of fire--times I've spent with people around other fires in other places. Sometimes I stare and work through a problem I have to solve: How will I pay the miller this month, why is the sourdough so sluggish? But today I'm not thinking anything. Fm feeling.

I'm not sure what the feeling is exactly, but luck comes the closest. If my life were a fable or myth, I would love the role I've been cast in--the village baker. I'm happy producing hearty breads in the tradition of European village bakers. These are large hand-formed loaves made only from organic flour, yeast, water, and salt--nothing else . . . .


Excerpted from Bread Alone: Bold Fresh
by Daniel Leader
Copyright © 2006 by Daniel Leader.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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