Bread Alone: Bold Fresh

Bread Alone: Bold Fresh

by Daniel Leader


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780688092610
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/19/1993
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 681,434
Product dimensions: 8.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 1.12(d)

About the Author

Daniel Leader is the owner and baker of the Bread Alone Bakery in New York's Catskill Mountains. Dan's food career began when, nine months short of his undergraduate philosophy degree from the University of Wisconsin, he realized his need to work with his hands as well as his mind. He enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, graduated at the top of his class, and, worked as a chef for some of New York City's hottest restaurants, La Grenouille and the Water Club. Then, after eight years of cooking food "too fancy to eat," he became obsessed with the idea of creating something wholesome, timeless, and beautiful. Great bread and Bread Alone were born. Dan lives in Boiceville, New York, with his wife, Sharon, and four children, Liv, Nels, Octavia, and Noah.

Read an Excerpt

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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Bread Alone: Bold Fresh 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
nedhall on LibraryThing 5 months ago
Nice solid bread making book, artisan techniques, translated well for home use
oriboaz on LibraryThing 5 months ago
This is Leader's first book. It has an interesting collection of recipes. Most of these are similar recipes with slightly different additions. However, the additions are quite innovative and non-trivial. Heavy use of "copy and paste" functionality means that many of the recipes read pretty much the same.
BreadmanNY More than 1 year ago
This book walks you through the process of making bakery quality bread. It's really the only book on the topic the average home baker will ever need.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Bread Alone is a lovely book. In that regard, I feel like it is a cookbook that goes beyond recipes to an approach. Bread in this book is born of an experience and an attitude. What recipes lack in minute detail is most likely a conscientious effort. The recipes are perfect platforms to embrace natural variation while maintaining a few simple controls. I liked the book so much and checked it out from the library so many times that my fiance got it for me as a birthday present!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wouldn't recommend this book for the beginning baker on fire with enthusiasm for baking loaves. It's a fine book to read, but I found the recipes rather frustrating. However, I enjoyed the quick-bread recipes in the back of the book immensely, and my friends have raved about those breads!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Daniel Leader offers a book that is over fermenting with his love for bread- old world and beyond. I would swear that this book has introduced essential wild yeast to my kitchen's atmosphere, and helped me produce breads that have my teachers asking for more!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great Book for simply wonderful bread and pizza. I was so please to find a book with the information on 'simple' bread--bread you can make with only wheat, water, a small amount of yeast, oil, and salt and you have wonderful bread with a great crust. I have had success adjusting the whole wheat/white flour ratios to include more whole wheat. I have friends that request that I make this bread for them as their Christmas present every year! All my children gobble it up whenever I make it.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As a novice breadbaker, I picked up this book to guide me in my quest to make various loaves. The book has a very wide variety of bread recipes and interesting background and anecdotal information as well. The step descriptions are helpful, but not as much as they could be. From a novices perspective, what this book lacked most of all was troubleshooting information; for example when describing maintaining the 'chef', the book says a clear liquid may form, but if it's pinked tinged that the 'chef' is bad - my problem is that my liquid that formed was light to dark brown and I have no idea where this falls into. Another big (big) problem with the book is the inconsistancy in measurements - the conversions appear different from one recipe to the next, do I trust the weight or volume measurement? This is a good book for a broad range of information on different types of loaves, but it also is a frustrating reference. Not recommended for the novice.