Bread is one of the most important staples of life — right up there with pizza and coffee. There is nothing more fulfilling than the smell, the feel, and the taste of an outstanding Ciabatta, Pugliese, or baguette — fresh, lean, authentic. Equally wonderful is the earthy, slightly sweet, and rich nutty flavor of a slice of whole wheat bread. One way or another, most of us consume a good quantity of bread every week, whether it is crusty “French” bread, sandwich bread, or toast.
Sadly, most of the bread we see in the supermarket is hardly bread at all. Rather than crusty, flavorful bread which has been slowly fermented, proofed, shaped, scored, and baked — possibly in a brick oven, most bread is ignorable at best, and offensive at worse.
The problem is that supermarket bread isn’t really bread. It isn’t fermented; it’s whipped. Its crust isn’t the starch in the flour caramelizing and becoming hard and brown from baking at high heat; instead it is the sugar added to the dough that browns at a low heat. Healthy “whole wheat” bread isn’t really whole wheat; it is just white bread with Carmel coloring and molasses. Supermarket “French” bread isn’t even really a baguette; it’s just white bread shaped into an oval and baked on a tray.
And then there are the preservatives. You are probably tired of hearing about it, but preservatives land somewhere between bad for you, and really bad for you. As my mother once said about 1960’s-era white sandwich bread, if you can leave it out on the counter for a week, and no bugs or organisms can live on it, how can we expect to live on it?
Artisan Bread Renaisaince
There is good news. For many of us, the brick oven bread revolution is happening in our neighborhoods, with micro-bakeries creating wonderful traditional bread and innovative new bread. They are everything you could want from your daily bread. Some communities even have wonderful, organic loaf bread companies that produce amazing whole wheat, cinnamon raisin, nut, seed, and other holistic loaves. Great for bread and toast.
Much like the microbrewery trend of the 80’s and 90’s, we are witnessing a renaissance of bread today. Happily, people can no longer laugh at the sad state of American bread and beer.
Still, I think it is a shame to be limited to great bread only on days when you go to the market. Plus, I think you are losing out on one of the great pleasures of the house — making, smelling, and eating freshly baked bread. And besides, at a cost of $3 per baguette, or more, you might be faced with the choice of only having great bread on special occasions, or having to pay for a very expensive bread habit.
Our approach is to make our own with the help of our brick wood-fired bread oven or pizza stone!
The following pages are a bread baking primer, showing you how to make Great Bread in your Forno Bravo Oven or on a Pizza Stone, to achieve perfect texture and taste!
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