Hello. My name is Kim and I am a cookbook-aholic. I’ve flagged more cookbook recipes than would be humanly possible to make in a single lifetime. Yet my obsession with acquiring new and old cookbooks persists unabated. This month I share my compulsive tendencies via the “21 Days” series, featuring some of my favorite cookbooks from local authors and publishers. Please feel free to join me in finding new cookbooks to feed our passion at any of my favorite Triangle indie book sellers: The Regulator Bookshop in Durham, Chapel Hill’s Flyleaf Books, Quail Ridge Books & Music in Raleigh or McIntyre’s Books in Pittsboro’s Fearrington Village.
I have to admit that I’ve not spent as much quality time with Lionel Vatinet’s A Passion for Bread as I feel is needed to give it a fair assessment. Initially when I read through the “Seven Steps to Making Great Bread” I felt a little intimated with the detail covered on those 32 pages. But over time, with each loaf I attempt, I’ve become less fearful of that process. It certainly feels more like “practice makes (nearly) perfect” now than when I started.
Learning the steps detailed in this book does require substantial investment in time, and perhaps in equipment if you don’t already happen to own the basics. But this book isn’t about making good bread with your stand mixer’s dough hook attachment – it’s about making “great” bread. If you’re familiar with La Farm Bakery and Cafe in Cary, you know the great bread they produce on a daily basis: Kalamata Olive bread, Challah, Ciabatta, Walnut Sage, their signature bread – La Farm, and many more (not including their fabulous pastries). Obviously, we home cooks usually don’t have access to the commercial grade, stone-lined hearth ovens that the pros use. But that doesn’t mean we can’t make a great bread at home using the techniques described and photographed within this book.
I’ve long admired the crackled crust, the moist, chewy interior and the euphoria-inducing aroma of La Farm bread. I’ve gained a greater appreciation for the skill of La Farm bakers through reading this book. The introductory chapters highlight the care taken in selecting quality grains, those that are unbleached, unbromated and have a high enough protein content to yeild the desired results. Using the appropriate ingredients was half my battle. In order to get past my mental barricade, I decided to attempt one of the more basic loaves, a Honey Whole-Wheat Bread (page 223). The first loaf didn’t look very pretty, but it certainly tasted like none other I’ve made. So I was inspired to try again. The attempt at the next loaf paid off in the appearance department (though still not as pretty as a loaf from the La Farm bakery) and still tasted wonderful. I felt a bit more accomplished at that point and I anticipate future time spent with those seven steps will result in a pretty return one day.
I am going to stick with it and continue working towards improving my technique. I find weighing the ingredients is becoming second nature now. I’m committing the steps to memory as I learn them. I may even sign up for one of the upcoming classes being held at the Vatinet home (find those complete details for Fall/Winter schedule here). Though I’m certain I’ll never become a Master Baker, I’m sure I’ll be enjoying some passionately home-baked bread.