Category: Bread Level 1

Wheat Stalk Bread

You know, that last post left a rotten taste in my mouth. Who wants a Unicorn Chaser? I DO!

Here’s my first attempt at pain d’epi — wheat stalk bread. We’re going to a potluck party tomorrow night at the house of a professional chef, so I’ve got to bring my a-game. Since I brought homemade cheese last year, I thought I’d give pain d’epi a try, since a) it is absofreakinglutely gorgeous in presentation, and b) because its little wheat-ears are perfect for pulling apart at a party, no knife required, and the rest of the loaf stays fresh until the next piece is torn off.

This was the test batch in preparation for the party. I made the dough ahead, and it’s been burbling away in the fridge since Wednesday night. I cannot explain how utterly gorgeous this Peter Reinhart dough is. You will have to come to Kalamazoo, so that I can thrust a fat bubbly blob of it into your hands so you can see for yourself.

I made a few errors — which made me very glad I did the test batch — but I think I should be able to rectify most of them when I bake tomorrow. For example, I had way too much flour on the counter, and the bottoms of the baguettes never sealed properly. I also forgot to mist the loaves with oil, so they got too dry.

The ends got a little toasted because they touched the back of the oven; I tried to get them diagonally on the stone, but got a little overzealous with the peel. Still, not bad for a first try, and the taste, oh the taste. One stalk is over half gone, and it’s not even cooled down yet. Good thing I took pictures right away.

For delivery to the party, I’m thinking maybe a waxed-paper cone of these with a ribbon around it, like a bouquet of flowers, a present to the host to make up for all the wine I’m going to drink.

These loaves remind me, in a long-distance way, of the shock of wheat that we lay on the altar at my grandfather’s funeral. Maybe it’s just the rural girl in me coming out, but there’re few things I find more lovely than wheat, the fabled amber waves of grain all undulating in a field, the symmetry of the stalks and bearded ears all tied neatly in a sheaf, the Amelie-pleasure of dipping your hand into a bag of berries, the sliky feel of good pastry flour, the delicious aroma of the bread it makes.

I like this project very much.

Bread in the Old Style

So yesterday I baked Reinhart’s pain a l’aincienne, and it was an unequivocal success.

And now I understand what those fancy cookbooks mean by “custard” when they talk about the interior of bread. The crumb was wide open, its thin beautiful tender membranes of gluten surrounding holes big enough to hide olives in, its texture soft and moist but not gummy, almost as though it were solidified custard. Amazing.

The crust was amazingly tender but amazingly flavorful. I’m used to the hard, thick, crunchy crusts of the no-knead bread, the kind that scours the inside of your mouth like bad breakfast cereal if you’re not careful with it. I happen to love this kind of crust, but it’s been rejected by my family as unchewable, so this may become my go-to bread for family gatherings.

The overall flavor was very mild, but I’m assuming that’s because the dough only got about 18 hours’ worth of fermentation time. I still have the other half in the fridge, and am going to let it hang out there until the 4th day, which is the longest Reinhart says you can keep it in there. Then I’m going to make a big gorgeous ciabatta out of it.

Yay for bread!

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