The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

The Dallas area is home to an impressive cadre of artisan bakers headed up by the good folks at Empire Baking on Lovers, La Spiga in Addison, Ravelin Bakery in Denton and the Bread Haus and Main Street Baking Company, both in Grapevine (not to mention Central Market, Eatzi’s and the elusive (and possibly defunct) Bistro Mama at Eden’s Organic Garden Center). With all those hands on deck you’d think it would be safe to assume that the region’s conditions are ideal for happy yeast and a successful crumb.

With this in mind, I’ve spent the last three months trying to bake just one passable loaf in my own kitchen. My failures have convinced me that these guys know some bit of leavening magic that I don’t.

My first loaf, which I bullishly made as a hostess gift for a party at my husband’s new boss’ home, was salty enough to attract deer. (Lesson: Never make for others that which has not crossed your own palate at least once.)

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My second attempt, a Jamie Oliver recipe involving a bottle of lager (which I subbed out with Imperial Stout), refused to rise. (Lesson: Baking is basically chemistry, so if the recipe says ale, use ale.)

The next, supposedly no-knead recipe resulted in a dough so soupy that it had to be poured into the waiting garbage can. (Lesson: Fact check recipes off the Internet for accuracy.)

Last weekend’s plain, white boule showed more promise and, while it was dense and almost immediately stale, it did make good toast. (Lesson: The road most traveled, while not as exciting, is sometimes the smarter choice.)

So, what now? Now it’s time to consult the pros. Stay tuned as I meet some of our great local artisan bakers, sample their wares, and get them to spill the beans (or the flour as it were) on how they manage to rise (and shine) every day.

10 comments on “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

  1. I bake bread. I haven’t done it lately, but my advice? Baby steps. Try a simple white bread first, and then branch out. I recommend the Village Baker book, Julia Child’s baking book (seriously, try the bialy recipe) and Martha Stewart’s baking book.

    But first, just try a simple white bread. It’s a good confidence builder, and you can do a lot with it – cinnamon bread, rolls, etc.

  2. Try Mark Bittman’s recipe for no knead bread that you make in a heavy pot/dutch oven. Just Google it and you’ll find several references and a great video. I’ve been making this for a couple of years. It is so easy and so good.

  3. It’s really very easy – if you have a kitchen aid stand mixer try a recipe from the pamphlet that comes with the mixer. Get a general baking book like Nick Malgieri’s How to Bake. The Bread Bakers Apprentice is good but a bit complicated.

  4. Sarah, no offense, but this isn’t a cooking blog, and your “bites me in the …” comment was boorish and unnecessary.

    Someone mentioned this before–why are the recent posts more about the writers than the subject they’re writing about? (incorrect grammar intended)

  5. Also consider the America’s Test Kitchen cookbook for baking only. There are some simple recipes for breads, but there are also mini-lessons that explain why you use “this” over “that”, etc. I’ve always had good luck with their recipes because they seek out the best possible version of foods, in their opinions at least.

  6. Meaders – do some classes on the weekend – would be fun to have a bread class or series (and your products are so good)…