The Wood-Fired Blog

Bread from Northern Europe

We’re back from a very nice trip to see friends in Brussels, and one of my favorite parts was (of course) the bread! I will be posting some fun photos of bread and some beer (liquid bread), which have given me inspiration to start using more rye and more seeds.

But for now, it’s baguettes a l’ancienne at the street market in Stokell in Belgium on a nice sunny Saturday morning. This is a real craft bread at a reasonable price. A l’ancienne is the technique where you use ice water to mix the dough, which inhibits the yeast from working on the starch in the flour until after the enzymes have had time to break it down — give you more flavor and complexity. It takes more time and attention that a standard yeast bread. Yep, 1.30 Euro. I will post the photos of the natural source dough and whole wheat yeast breads next.

Stupid me though. I didn’t ask if the bakery uses a wood-fired bread oven. Darn. I can say that the bottom of the whole wheat levain (sourdough) was a little burned, which means it very well might have been a wood-fired bakery.

 

3,200 Calories a Day

You might have noticed that I bake a of bread — so what do we do with all of it? We don’t have a huge family, I don’t give my bread to neighbors or sell it, and I don’t throw it away after I test a new oven. And I don’t have a crazy high carb diet.

Baking has been a hobby that I have enjoyed for years. I bought a copy of The Bread Baker’s Apprentice in 2001, which really got me hooked on artisan bread. It was Peter’s wonderful book that led me to build my first brick oven, which led to Forno Bravo. Fun. For me, FB was the intersection between two of my hobbies — bread baking and building (I’ve done 10 large home building projects over the past 20 years).

Today I have a new symbiotic intersection. Baking and eating. Leading up to a race, I run about 80 miles a week, so in order to maintain my weight, I need to eat roughly 3,200 calories a day. So eating lots of healthy homemade bread works out really well.

Here are yesterday’s baguettes finishing up in a prototype oven.