I consider myself lucky to have attended Le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris, France. When I attended the school, in the late 1970’s, the school’s Director, Madam Brassart still owned and supervised the daily activities at the school, which at that time occupied small quarters, located at 24 rue de Champ de Mars in Paris. The school, at the time, had recently been expanded from one classroom to two. As a result of the expansion the school was accepting additional students, and I was fortunate enought to be accepted. In those days classes were small, the practical sessions (hands-on) usually had less than a dozen students. Having a limited number of students per class offered the benefit of having direct interaction with the chef instructors. It was a great experience attending Le Cordon Bleu and living in Paris. As the American writer Ernest Hemmingway said: “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
For a time I cooked professionally with the goal of one day opening my own restaurant. I never did open a restaurant but I sure have cooked a lot of meals over the years and have done a fair amount of baking. Until a few years ago, my baking was mostly direct method baking, utilizing yeast for leavening. This method produces tasty, old fashioned, home style bread and rolls.
As artisan baking in the United States became more recognized and gained in popularity, I decided to try my hand at it. I quickly became hooked, so to speak. Bread baking became a source of such enjoyment and pleasure that I concentrated as much of my spare time and energy as possible, learning as much as I could about the various baking methods and techniques. As I said, I never really had a lot of enthusiam or even curiosity for artisan and rustic breads until I lived in Europe (Germany and France) for a few years. It was then that I began develop an appreciation for hand made breads, regional breads in particular, that I found as I traveled the various regions of France and Germany. When I returned from Europe I became really interested in baking what is now referred to as artisan breads.
The first comprehensive baking book I read was Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads. After leafing through it at the book store I bought it, brought it home, began reading it, and that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. I still regularly bake some of the recipes from that book: Sour dough Loaf (pg. 286), Pain de Compagne Honfleur (pg. 246), and Pain de Compagne Madame Doz (pg. 249), are among my favorites and some of the ones that I consistently bake. In the introduction to Pain de Compagne Madame Doz Mr. Clayton describes first meeting Madame Doz: “I towered over Madame Doz in height only. At ninety-nine years of age, she stood head and shoulders above me in knowledge of baking.” Some of Mr. Clayton’s recipes are classics that I still bake. They always taste great and I seriousl doubt they’ll ever go out of style.
During the past few years, with bakers such as Peter Reinhart, Michel Suas, Jeffey Hamelman, Dan Leader, Rose Levy Baeranbaum, Dan Lepard, and numerous others having written some wonderful baking books there seems to be an awakening taking place across the land. These books seem to have introduced America to an alternative to supermarket bread. These books contain information and recipes for a multitude of different breads from various countries, around the world. I believe, much the same as the cooking revolution of the 1960’s, there is a home baking revolution building across the America as well as in Europe.
Over the past three or four years I have periodically purchased new baking books and now have a dozen books or so of these books that I use as sources for baking information and recipes. These books coupled with the Internet can provide any home baker with more information than could be assimilated in a lifetime. There’s such a wealth of information accessable via incredible search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing and graphics in the form of baking videos and the many baking websites and blog sites providing information that just wasn’t previously available. All of that information is now as close as your computer.
For me bread baking has become one of the most enjoyable and rewarding hobbies I have ever had. It’s really difficult to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced the pure pleasure of baking a loaf of bread, how good it makes you feel. Besides being therapeudic, baking bread is both challenging and incredibly rewarding. The rush you get from successfully executing the twelve steps involved in baking bread is pretty amazing, not to mention the wonderul aroma that fills the house while the bread is in the oven. Since taking up home baking as a hobby I feel although, I have learned some things about the craft it’s pretty obvious to me that serious pursuit of the craft is a life long journey. Part of the reason I took up baking was for the same reason I became a convert to Julia Child’s and James Beard’s cooking movement, in the 1960’s, to improve the quality and taste of what we eat everyday. I firmly belief that most commercial bread, the stuff sold in the supermarkets, is so bad that it is the best reason I can think of to begin baking your own bread.
The breads that I have posted to Bread Baker’s Blog range from direct method yeast breads, which are simple and easy to make, to some of the artisanal breads that are a bit more complicated to make. I hope you’ll find something on this site that will I began concentrating on baking I have enjoy baking and sharing information with other home bakers, I decided the best way to do this would be to create a blog site, which is how Bread Baker’s Blog came into being. On August 19, 2009 I began organizing and posting some of the recipes I have baked during the past year or so. I hope to have these posts completed within a month or two. As soon as I have completed these posts I will begin posting new baking projects on a regular basis.
It is my hope that these posts to Bread Baker’s Blog will be of help to other home bakers and perhaps encourage them to try some of the recipes/formulas that have given me so much enjoyment.
This site is a work in progress and I would welcome any comments as to how to improve Bread Baker’s Blog.