Breaking Bread: A Baker’s Journey Home in 75 Recipes by Martin Philip, EPUB, 0062447920

December 6, 2017

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 Breaking Bread: A Baker's Journey Home in 75 Recipes by Martin Philip, EPUB, 0062447920

Breaking Bread: A Baker’s Journey Home in 75 Recipes by Martin Philip

  • Print Length: 400 Pages
  • Publisher: Harper Wave
  • Publication Date: October 31, 2017
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B06WP4LSR6
  • ISBN-10: 0062447920
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062447920
  • File Format: EPUB

 

”Preview”

DEDICATION

FOR THE BENT-KNUCKLED AND CALLOUSED,

WRINKLED, AND FORGOTTEN;

FOR THE KNEADING, AND TENDING, CRADLING,

AND EMBRACING;

FOR THE NEWBORN, THE GRASPING, THE REACHING,

AND HOLDING; FOR THE HANDS.

CONTENTS

COVER

TITLE PAGE

DEDICATION

AUTHOR’S NOTE

Part 1

RECIPES AND STORIES BREADWRIGHT BUTTER BISCUITS

FRESH BUTTER

PLUM PORT JAM

LEMON-BLACKBERRY JAM

CORN GRIT HOECAKES

MOLASSES PIE

OMA’S PIE CRUST

PECAN PIE

MAMA’S BREAD

BREAD PUDDING

LEAVING BLACK-EYED PEAS

CORNMEAL DROP BISCUITS

FOCACCIA

TAPENADE

BASIC FRENCH DOUGH

PIZZA NAPOLETANA

RED SAUCE

PANE GENZANO

FILONE DI SESAME

CIABATTA

OLIVE AND ROSEMARY RUSTIQUE

NEW YORK BAGELS

SOURDOUGH MICHE

PAIN DE SEIGLE

CHOCOLATE-ORANGE MUFFINS

BANANA-PECAN MUFFINS

IRISH LEVAIN

BRIOCHE

BRIOCHE COFFEE CAKE

GINGER-INFUSED PASTRY CREAM

STREUSEL

POACHED PEARS

VERMONT OATMEAL BREAD

POOLISH BAGUETTE

STRAIGHT BAGUETTE

COUNTRY BAGUETTE

HOME FRESH-MILLED MICHE

PAIN DE MIE

CINNAMON ROLLS

WHEAT PANCAKES

RISEN PANCAKES

GINGER SCONES

ROASTED CORN–CHIVE SCONES

FIG-ANISE SCONES

JALAPEÑO-CHEDDAR BREAD

WOOD’S BOILED CIDER BREAD

CARRIE’S APPLE BREAD

SHORTCAKE BISCUITS

STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB COMPOTE

SPICED HONEY BREAD

BEEKEEPER’S PAIN DE MIE

ROTI

LENTILS

RAITA

SEEDED CRACKERS

ROMESCO

HUMMUS

BABA GANOUSH

SOCCA

GROWTH AND COMPETITION DURUM-ROSEMARY BREAD

SEEDED SOURDOUGH

CRANBUCK

RUSTIC WALNUT CIABATTA

CITRUS VOLLKORNBROT

COUPE POWERBROT

KVASSMICHE

BOXCAR

SUNSEED

CURRIED COCONUT SOUP

HOME AGAIN

Part 2:

METHOD FOUNDATIONS INGREDIENTS

SOURDOUGH CULTURE

MEASURING INGREDIENTS

BAKER’S MATH

FERMENTATION

SETTING TEMPERATURES

PROCESS MIXING

FOLDING

DIVIDING

PRESHAPING

SHAPING

PROOFING

SCORING

OVEN

LOADING

STEAMING

BAKING

TROUBLESHOOTING TOPICS

TOOLS AND SMALLWARES

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

INDEX

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

COPYRIGHT

ABOUT THE PUBLISHER

AUTHOR’S NOTE

I began this book with no plan, no structure, no writing experience, and no sense of my skill or lack thereof. In every imaginable endeavor this predicament might have resulted in disappointment or worse. But in hindsight I see that an empty space was the most fortunate beginning as I was free of expectations, free of confines, an open field ready for sun, rain, darkness, and time to transform and to grow. And so, it was here that I began, planting words and waiting to see what would take. What came out was something winding. If sentences and paragraphs were trees, we’d see their beginnings, roots twisting through red clay soil rising upward into burls, knots, and limbs before leaves and seeds fall, returning to dirt, journeying homeward.

In this structure the book abandons the traditional form of a cooking or baking book. Recipes are not grouped by dough type or method. Rather, they grow into the manuscript organically, introduced in the same order in which they made their way to my life, my hands, and eventually, my own mixing bowl and oven.

Some of you may wish to bypass the narrative sections; I understand. Dinner needs to be on the table in thirty minutes and words don’t fill bellies. For ease we’ve listed linked recipes for quick reference. Also, you may find yourself directed to the Method section of the book for specific skills and technical content; this mostly relates to the bread recipes, which tend to be more involved.

The details of this story are mine but they are not unique. We all have tales, lives with beginnings, heartache, happiness, movement, and endings. I hope that you find yourself inspired to bake your own narrative, to connect the lines of your experience to your own environment, your family, and those around you, for baking and giving are truly acts of love.

Happy baking,

Martin

Part 1

RECIPES AND STORIES

BREADWRIGHT

Bread: Old English bread “bit, crumb, morsel; bread,” cognate with Old Norse brauð, Danish brød, Old Frisian brad, Middle Dutch brot, Dutch brood, German Brotbrot. According to one theory [Watkins, etc.] from Proto-Germanic *brautham, which would be from the root of brew [v.] and refer to the leavening.

Wright: Old English wryhta, wrihta [Northumbrian wyrchta, Kentish werhta] “worker,” variant of earlier wyhrta, from wyrcan “to work” [see work [v.]]. Now usually in combinations [wheelwright, playwright, etc.] or as a surname. Common West Germanic; cognate with Old Saxon wurhito, Old Frisian wrichta, Old High German wurhto.

My name is Martin Rainey Philip.

“Martin” for Martin Chamberlin of Shortsville, New York, a cooper who made barrels and drained them with equal skill; dead of cirrhosis, 1919. “Rainey” for Thomas Rainey, who left countless Scotch-Irish Raineys and the gray skies of County Armagh, Northern Ireland, for work as a bleachery foreman in the toxic woolen mills of Central Falls, Rhode Island; dead of influenza, 1944. And “Philip” from George Rennie Philip of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, a journeyman stonecutter who traded Scottish granite for Vermont granite and worked himself to death in Barre, Vermont; dead of exhaustion, 1915.

To gain a name is an easy thing—a mouthlong chain of consonants and vowels cut and stamped. With a sharp pen stroke one can carve on a family tree for eternity. Census documents hold forests of these trees and branches and you can climb around in them, moving past a spot of ink here, a correction there, the antique curling scripts counting lives, and livelihoods, as they wind through centuries of occupations and births. There once was a time when lives were linked to tangible trades and physical connections—the crush of a hammer between arm and stone, palms on spinning bobbins of cotton warp, fingers dragging across fresh-sawn staves in a cooperage, a baker’s arms bent at the dough trough, pulling and kneading—once, we lived at the intersection of our hands and our materials.

And if men’s names make paternal ladders with lineage and crests, and Jr. and Sr., what of the women? Frances Harriet Chamberlin, occupation, blank. Carolyn Rainey Harris, occupation, blank. Cora Isabelle King, occupation, blank. While men passed down names in direct lines, matriarchs lived in round forms moving from knitting circles to mixing bowls, a wrap of arms around a child. Through these connected, embracing forms, they have sewn, baked, tended, and grown those parts of us which shape, rather than name. My grandmother, Carolyn Harris, or “Oma” as we called her, was a quilter. Her quilting frame, her foundation, hand-cut and smoothed by years of use, was constructed by her long-deceased son. In cold months the frame was assembled in the living room, equidistant from bed and board where she worked, her face bent close to the frame. This quiet play of hands and material, whether in a bowl of flour, in a bucket of bulbs, or quietly pulling a needle and thread at the dimming of day, was her connection, her evensong of fingers and heart; her handcraft was the outward representation of her soul craft.

Oma passed this connection to my mother, Frances Philip, through will or environment. And what emerged in Mama was an entirely alternative form. Where Oma was precise and traditional and classical, my mother blew everything to the moon, scattering scrap quilts cut from colorful bikinis along the way. If Oma was control and adherence—delicate angel food cake for every birthday—Mama was hollering “Chinese fire drill” at a stoplight with a car full of kids. I’m thankful for the contrast, for Mama’s ability to improvise, to roll with it, to encourage a baking adventure to never-never land even in the face of an empty pantry. And I miss Oma—the precision, the formality, the pecan pie with a splash of whiskey, blond brownies spiked with black walnuts, orange-glazed angel food cake adorned with fresh flowers—treats held in the soul’s memory.

These two distinct lines—the men, handing names and a connection to trade; and the women, living through example, nurturing with linens, layettes, and food—made their way to my lap as I, attempting to cross-stitch, sewed my pants to a cloth napkin as I sat on the couch next to my mother. Heritage is stamped within and without. There are jewels and there are scars. On my arm, the faded white of two holes where I was impaled running in a thicket, the sticks entering my arm and later yanked out under running water by my brother. Despite decades of fresh skin and new memories, the scars still look back at me, bearing witness to a time and place where stick punctured arm. So it is with craft and lineage, hearts, and names.

Today I reach down through grass and dirt to grasp the roots of this lineage. My wife Julie and I left New York City to bring our family back to Vermont, where the first Philips settled when they came from Scotland. We live at the confluence of rivers and rusty train tracks in a railroad town. It is here that, daily, I embrace handcraft, trade, and round forms, milling flour on circular stones, mixing doughs, and baking bread at King Arthur Flour for my family and communities of happy eaters, which encircle us. If today is my day to be counted, to climb and take a place on the family tree, to lay down my roots or make the last journey, it is a good day as I am proud of my listing—I’m in the right line, in the right place to receive and also give. I am a baker, and flourishing.

My path to this good place hasn’t been straight: I’ve been lost; I’ve moved from roots, heritage, and home before heading back again. And this journey, all of it, began with drop biscuits.

I grew up in the creases of the Ozark Mountains, learning to speak with soft mouth and even tones to the night calls of whip-poor-will and chuck-will’s-widow. I was the third of six children and we were a mixture of old ways and hippie new ways. We had Foxfire books on the shelf, comfrey in the garden, and cures, which favored hair-tying for deep scalp wounds, garlic pills for blood clots, and cider vinegar for everything else. Our diet had no meat, preservatives, food coloring, additives, white sugar, or anything else multisyllabic on a label. When we could afford it, my mother would place a bulk order with the food co-op for tubs of tofu, fifty-pound bags of rolled oats and pinto beans, buckets of blackstrap molasses, and bags of brewer’s yeast.

Those days were not gentle imprints or glancing marks from casual use; they were dents and patina, weathered paint on hardwood boards, and their impressions remain, forty years on. I see steam vents rising from oatmeal in a house with frost on inside windows, cornmeal-crusted sunfish fried in cast iron, twisted inside-out, tails pulled through mouths. And my mother’s ragged drop biscuits, flecked with whole wheat flour. They were not lofty or light; they weren’t brushed with butter or made with lard. They were simple, they were cheap, and they were dinner. Flour in the bowl, baking powder—enough to cover the small dip between her palm’s heart and life lines—and a thimbleful of salt. In my mind’s eye, she was near the stove, framed by a greasy fox pelt and cast-iron corn pone pans hanging on a brick chimney. She hand-mixed the dry ingredients, then made a well, filled it with water, and floated enough oil on top to cover the liquid surface. Stir, stir, scoop, drop, bake, and serve with honey or brewer’s yeast gravy.

Biscuits for dinner, folk medicine made with the eye’s measurement. We all have these memories, recollections, which, when summoned, can transport us. Food traditions have a way of leaving marks, indelible ink the whiff of which yanks us whirling and swirling to lands beyond and long gone. But could I re-create these biscuits with my own palms? Would I, in some attempt to go back, use these warm forms as a means of travel to an old house in Arkansas? What is it about biscuits that brings weight beyond the measure of ingredients? Over my years as a baker I have given innumerable loaves to friends, family, and strangers, and, while each loaf carries something and was passed along in earnest, I cannot say there is a more tender act than the sharing of biscuits. This gift, this simple mix of flour, milk, butter, salt, and leavening, when eaten warm from the oven, contains me, my heritage, my home, my upbringing—all that I am. And the biscuits have changed as I have—when I make them today I fuss some, perhaps as Oma would, gently incorporating layers of cold butter and folding the dough before cutting it into small rounds. When no one’s looking I might even make them without measuring anything, as Mama would. During baking, moisture in the butter expands, pushing upward before setting and transitioning—toasting to golden. Small hands can break them, separating tops from bottoms easily, each half ferrying butter or jam or simply riding sidecar to a bowl of beans. I don’t know what the old home would feel like today—but I do know that my heart is here, in this very moment when I have biscuits.

BUTTER BISCUITS

Yield: Ten to twelve 2½-inch biscuits

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

All-purpose flour 355 3 cups

Salt, fine 6 1 teaspoon

Baking powder 4 1 teaspoon

Baking soda 2 ¼ teaspoon

Butter, unsalted, cold 113 ½ cup (8 tablespoons)

Buttermilk 240 1 cup + 1½ teaspoons

PREPARE

Position an oven rack on a rung in the top third of the oven.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Lightly grease a 13 by 18-inch sheet pan, or line it with parchment paper.

Cut the butter into ⅛-inch-thick slices. Chill until use.

Weigh and chill the dry ingredients.

MIX

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

Add the cold butter and toss to coat with the dry ingredients. Then press the butter slices between your thumb and forefinger into small flat pieces or “leaves.”

Add the buttermilk all at once and mix gently until the mixture is just combined. The dough should be firm and barely cohesive (some dry bits are OK).

SHAPE

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and pat into a ¾-inch-thick rectangle. The dry bits will incorporate in the following steps.

Fold the dough in thirds as you would a letter and gently roll or pat it into a rectangle. Repeat this fold-and-roll process once more if the dough isn’t cohesive.

Lightly flour the top of the dough and cut the dough into circles with a sharp 2-inch biscuit cutter, or square the sides and edges and cut into 8 to 10 even squares using a chef’s knife.

BAKE

Place the biscuits on the prepared sheet pan.

Bake for 16 to 18 minutes, rotating after 14 minutes, until the biscuits are golden.

Cold Butter

There are a couple of key points to remember in making biscuits, scones, and pie crusts. Ingredients should be kept cold until use. Keeping them cold will ensure that the butter will have no opportunity to melt until it reaches the oven. Melting butter releases moisture, which supports the development of gluten (too much of which will make the crust tough); and once the butter is melted, there will be no separation between it and the flour within the dough. This separation is what creates flake and tenderness and supports a puffy, crisp pastry.

After adding the liquid to your dough be careful not to overwork it with too much kneading or mixing. Mechanical action will develop gluten and toughen pastries. Just mix until the ingredients are combined and then stop. Additional incorporation of a dry bit here or there will be handled when the dough is rolled or shaped.

There are things that are no longer homemade, and the list seems to keep growing. At Oma’s house a sandwich prepared with store-bought bread would be served only with a side of apology. These days, spotting a committed home baker is not unlike that spring afternoon when cedar waxwings migrate through our yard—it’s worth a trip to the window. You and I can change that with a few ingredients and a little time, but before we get to that, let’s bring back another staple that will reward our attention and our mouths.

I don’t know where store-bought butter comes from, I picture a windowless lab with white walls and an expensive instrument, the lauded “flavor extractor,” which purifies, beats, and stabilizes the formerly flavorFUL cream and renders it entirely tasteless but shelf stable (whee, who cares!). If you follow labels you will even notice that butter is often made with the addition of natural flavoring . . . because butter needs more flavor? Let’s stop this insanity; butter is damn easy and quick to make. What do you need? Cream. The stuff from the store in the wax carton will work, but if you can find your way to a local farm that sells directly, or find a source at a local food cooperative (look for the glass bottles), the experience will be even richer.

FRESH BUTTER

Yield: 227 grams (1 cup)

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

Heavy cream 465 2 cups

Ice water, for rinsing the butter 465 2 cups

Salt, fine 3 ½ teaspoon

PREPARE

Chill the bowl of your stand mixer and the whisk attachment.

MIX

Put the cold cream in the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.

Cover the mixer with a tea towel to minimize the spatter of cream, or use a splatter guard if your mixer has one.

Turn the mixer on high and beat the cream until it thickens like whipped cream, a few minutes.

Continue beating past this point until the fat separates from the buttermilk and the butter clumps on the whisk.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, pour off the buttermilk, then return the bowl to the mixer.

Add 1 cup of the fresh ice water to the bowl and set to high speed for 1 minute. Remove the bowl from the mixer and pour off the cloudy rinse water.

Return the bowl to the mixer, add the second cup of ice water, and beat the butter and water on high speed for an additional minute.

Remove the bowl from the mixer, pour off the cloudy water, and knead the butter briefly in the bowl by hand to remove as much of the remaining water as possible. The rinse water should appear mostly clear, not milky.

Add the salt and knead/mix by hand in the mixing bowl to incorporate.

The butter can be chilled and kept, refrigerated, for a week, or frozen for up to a month.

PLUM PORT JAM

If made well, jam is a season in a jar—fruit remains intact and the sunshine of summer can express its purity. And amendments can be added to heighten, surprise, or leave a question mark on a palate, which will encourage knives and hands to return for seconds. This refrigerator jam pairs good plums with a natural match, port wine, and adds star anise as an accent, elevating the plums.

Yield: 681 grams (3 cups)

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

Plums, whole, fresh 900 2 pounds

Star anise 8 intact “stars” 8 intact “stars”

Sugar 360 1¾ cups

Port wine 120 ½ cup

Lemon juice, freshly squeezed 14 1 tablespoon

DAY ONE

PREPARE

Pit and quarter the plums.

Wrap the star anise in cheesecloth and tie it with a piece of kitchen string for easy retrieval.

FIRST BOIL

In a wide medium nonreactive pot, combine the plums, star anise, sugar, port wine, and lemon juice.

Bring to a full boil, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat, cover the pot, and let the mixture sit at room temperature for at least an hour, or as long as overnight.

DAY TWO

FINAL BOIL

Remove the pot lid. Set the jam mixture over medium-high heat, and bring it to a medium boil.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the jam thickens.

The jam is ready when it reaches a temperature of 220°F and passes the plate test: Freeze a plate and drop some jam onto it; if the jam wrinkles when gently pushed after cooling, it is ready.

This jam will hold well, chilled, for up to 2 weeks.

NOTE: For larger batches and greater yield you may double all amounts and proceed with the method as written.

Checking Temperatures

A candy or probe thermometer is the most accurate way to test the set of a jam or jelly. During testing we found that the infrared thermometer did not accurately read the boiling jam. At sea level, full set should occur at or just below 220°F. As water leaves the boiling liquid, progress toward this temperature will slow.

Once the boil reaches 212°F to 215°F, keep a very close eye on it, as it can burn quickly. I personally do not mind a jam that is somewhat loose; so depending on how it looks, I will often turn it off right around 215°F.

As an alternative to the thermometer you may also use the plate test. Before beginning the final boil, place a ceramic or glass plate in the freezer. When the boiling mixture forms glassy bubbles the size of marbles and seems well thickened, place a teaspoon of jam on the plate and return it to the freezer for 2 minutes. While waiting for the mixture to set, lower the heat under the jam pot, or remove it from the burner. After the 2 minutes, remove the plate from the freezer and push gently on the jam, checking to see if it wrinkles. If it is set and wrinkles with pressure, the jam is ready. If it is not set, return the pot to the heat and cook the jam for 1 or 2 minutes longer, then repeat the test.

LEMON-BLACKBERRY JAM

Yield: 681 grams (3 cups)

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

Blackberries, fresh or frozen 900 3 pints

Sugar 360 1¾ cups

Lemon zest 6 1 tablespoon

Lemon juice 14 1 tablespoon

DAY ONE

PREPARE

Wash and clean the blackberries. If you are using frozen berries, thaw them and keep all the juice.

FIRST BOIL

In a wide medium nonreactive pot, combine the blackberries, sugar, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

Bring to a full boil, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat, cover the pot, and let the mixture sit at room temperature for at least an hour, or as long as overnight.

DAY TWO

FINAL BOIL

Remove the pot lid. Set the jam mixture over medium-high heat and bring it to a medium boil.

Cook, stirring occasionally, until the jam thickens.

The jam is ready when it reaches a temperature of 220°F and passes the plate test: Freeze a plate and drop some jam onto it; if the jam wrinkles when gently pushed after cooling, it is ready.

This jam will hold well, chilled, for up to 2 weeks.

NOTE: For larger batches and greater yield you may double all amounts and proceed with the method as written.

There is comforting, there is belly-warming, there are old rituals and new traditions, there is delicious, and there are hoecakes. This corny staple, found in cultures from central America to the Caribbean and north to the United States, is the obvious product of water, coarse cornmeal, and hot fat. We amend ours with eggs, a little leavening, butter, and salt. We didn’t cook ours on a hoe over an open fire as they may have been made formerly; our cast iron works plenty well. Southerners have endless access to grits . . . in Vermont I have to search a little but can usually find them. I like the yellow ones for their color and prefer “Regular” over “Instant” as Regular are crunchier. You may use what you like! And, for a nice variation, try them “savory,” garnished with shredded chicken, roasted salsa, fresh avocado, cilantro, and lime juice.

CORN GRIT HOECAKES

Yield: Ten to twelve 3- to 4-inch hoecakes

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

Water, boiling 160 ¾ cup

Grits, instant or regular 160 1 cup + 1 tablespoon

Butter, unsalted 28 2 tablespoons

Cornmeal, yellow 28 heaping 3 tablespoons

Sugar 28 scant 2 tablespoons

Baking powder 4 1 teaspoon

Salt, fine 3 ½ teaspoon

Egg, large 50 1

Buttermilk 125 ½ cup + 1 tablespoon

Butter, for greasing the pan or griddle

PREPARE

Combine the boiling water, grits, and 2 tablespoons butter in a bowl and stir thoroughly.

While the grits soak up the water, gather and measure the remaining ingredients.

MIX

In a small bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg and buttermilk, then add the soaked grits and butter mixture. Stir until smooth.

Add the dry ingredients and stir until smooth.

Set the batter aside to rest while you preheat an electric griddle to 350°F, or heat a frying pan over medium heat.

COOKING

Rub a small amount of butter over your griddle or frying pan. Use a paper towel to fully distribute it and remove any excess.

Using a scant ¼-cup measure, drop the batter onto the griddle or frying pan, spreading it into 3- to 4-inch circles with the bottom of the cup if necessary.

As there is no gluten, these cakes are very tender. Flip gently when the edges are set and the cakes hold their shape. Cook for an additional 1 to 2 minutes on the second side. Repeat with the remaining batter.

Enjoy with molasses, maple syrup, honey, or fresh jam!

Molasses, that blackstrap sugarcane sweetener, dark as pitch and rich with iron and minerals, may be an acquired taste. Its unsavory history in this country goes back to a triangle of trade, which moved slaves from West Africa to the Caribbean where ships took on molasses bound for Boston for use in making rum. Booze-laden, they then completed the route, returning to Africa, leaving the drink, and taking humans. A by-product of sugar production, molasses was cheaper than white sugar and, before World War 1, led the sweetener market in the United States along with maple syrup. In Arkansas the lazy Susan on our kitchen table always spun with a jar of molasses and a jar of honey—set to please the tastes of two camps, one preferring oatmeal with molasses and the other choosing honey. It isn’t a subtle taste—these days most homes keep a dusty jar in the cupboard for molasses cookies or gingerbread. But at my house the jar lives on—sticky sides ensuring a firm grip during transport from cupboard to table, its journey on a cornbread boat ending with passage from a child’s hand to waiting teeth. It can also be made into my favorite pie.

When shelves are empty, cupboards bare, no cream in sight or hoard of chocolate, there is molasses. And, if there are molasses and eggs from our hens, a little flour and butter, there can be pie. I have a few of Oma’s recipe cards, cup measures written with cursive curls and tips in the margin. It could be that the magic of her molasses pie can be found on this card but I’m guessing her experience, that place beyond the margins where craft lives, is where the secrets lie. If I had known, as a child I would have reached a small hand upward, past the counter, over the edge of a cool bowl to pinch-test the consistency of her pie dough, to watch as ingredients were carefully combined. My children have come to know my own molasses pie, perhaps believing that maybe I have some magic of my own.

If molasses is a new taste for you, you might begin with the lighter variety as it is more sweet than strong. And then I encourage you to move, armed with fresh whipped cream, along the spectrum toward dark or even blackstrap.

MOLASSES PIE

Yield: One 9-inch pie

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

Eggs, large 150 3

Molasses, light, dark, or blackstrap 329 1 cup

Salt, fine Pinch Pinch

Vanilla extract 5 1 teaspoon

Pie crust, unbaked, 9-inch 1

PREPARE

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

MIX

Beat the eggs well.

Add the molasses, salt, and vanilla and stir to combine. Pour the filling into the unbaked pie crust.

BAKE

Bake the pie at 375°F for 20 minutes, then reduce the oven to 350°F and bake for another 30 minutes, until the filling is set. During baking, the pie will dome some and then settle.

Serve when cool. Garnish with softly whipped cream.

OMA’S PIE CRUST

Yield: Two 9-inch crusts; enough for 1 double-crust pie, or 2 single-crust pies

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

All-purpose flour 300 2½ cups

Salt, fine 3 ½ teaspoon

Butter, unsalted 200 ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons (14 tablespoons)

Water, iced and strained 80 to 100 6 to 7 tablespoons

PREPARE

Measure and combine the flour and salt, and chill until use.

Cut the butter into ⅛-inch-thick slices. Chill until use.

MIX

Add the cold butter to the dry ingredients and toss to coat with the flour mixture. Then press the butter slices between your thumb and forefinger into small flat pieces or “leaves.”

Rub this mixture briefly between your palms and fingers, 10 to 15 seconds. It should be the texture of cornmeal with many larger pieces of flattened butter still intact in some places.

Add ice water, a tablespoon at a time, tossing to combine. Stop adding ice water as the mixture comes together but before it is a homogeneous mass. A handful of the pie dough should hold its shape when squeezed together, with a few dry bits in the bottom of the bowl.

Transfer the dough onto a work surface and knead gently to combine, just until the mixture comes together. The dough should be flecked with visible pieces of butter.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces and shape each into a disk about ¾ inch thick. Wrap the disks in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 20 minutes, or up to 24 hours, before rolling. You may freeze one for later use.

SHAPE

Remove a disk of dough from the refrigerator and allow it to soften slightly before rolling, 10 to 15 minutes.

On a lightly dusted surface with a sheen of flour on the top of the dough, roll from the center out, working in all directions until the crust is 10 to 11 inches in diameter for a 9-inch pan. If the dough sticks, use a bench knife to release it, and also push some bench flour under the dough. You may invert your pie pan over the dough to check the diameter; add an extra inch all around to allow for a crimped edge.

The rolled crust can be crimped and placed in a standard 9-inch pie pan and chilled, covered, until use, up to 24 hours. The unbaked crust can be well wrapped and frozen for up to 1 month.

PECAN PIE

Yield: One 9-inch pie

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

Eggs, large 150 3

Brown sugar 255 1¼ cups

Corn syrup (dark or light), or brown rice syrup 312 1 cup

Pecan halves 100 scant 1 cup

Vanilla extract or whiskey 14 1 tablespoon

Pie crust, unbaked, 9-inch 1

PREPARE

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

MIX

Whisk the eggs together until smooth.

Add the sugar and whisk together.

Stir in the syrup, pecans, and vanilla or whiskey.

Pour the filling into the prepared shell.

BAKE

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes until the pie is set and the crust is nicely browned. During baking, the pie will dome some and then settle.

Serve when cool. Garnish with freshly whipped cream.

At our house, bread making was a ritual, reliable and grounding in its weekend occurrence, something to be repeated, revisited, and awaited. It would happen on Saturdays when there was time to spare; the bread was begun and then tended when a moment allowed. Occasionally, it was forgotten, but bread tolerates life and interruptions relatively well. It is not egg whites in a mixer or pastry cream on medium heat; it is a process of waiting, sprinkled with bits of activity. Mix, then wait. Shape, then wait. Load the oven, then wait. In a corner of our kitchen at a counter with an east-facing window gathering light and illuminating puffs of flour as a wooden spoon moved in circles, my father or mother was the baker. Twenty-five pounds of dough at a time were mixed in our largest wooden bowl. As with the biscuits, the recipe was variable; but, in broad terms, it was a blend of all-purpose white flour and coarse whole wheat flour, spring water, oil, honey or molasses, salt and dry yeast. Sometimes even the leftover oatmeal from the morning would be dumped into the batch if it hadn’t been fed to the dog. The dough was mixed with a wooden spoon before being hand-kneaded until a piece pulled from the mass sprang back. In summer, encouraged by southern heat and humidity, the dough might grow enough to spill over the counter, expanding in all directions, unrestricted, leaving its mark to be scraped off cupboards at some point, or never. A benefit of a lengthy rise (what bakers refer to as fermentation) is that flavor is given time to develop—I didn’t know any of this as a child but, passing the large, bran-flecked mound of dough scantily clad with embroidered dish towels on the counter, I would reach under to pinch a piece of dough, leaving the mark of two fingers and hole. And what a flavor, gently sweet, slightly acidic and yeasty, a delicious preview of wheaty things to come. It was weighed into two-pound pieces, shaped, and put in pans for the final rise, then baked until browned and hollow to the thump. What does bread baking smell like in heaven? It smells like bread baking. How could the afterlife possibly improve on the aroma of 540 identified volatile chemical compounds that defy scientific imitation creating the most universally accepted and loved smell in the world? These days I’ve learned to wait until this aroma calms and the bread has cooled before slicing. Cutting it hot releases moisture into the air, prematurely halting the process during which starches settle and the loaf temperature equalizes. Waiting is similar to allowing a chicken or steak to rest before slicing. But did we wait as kids? Hell no. We would saw through an entire loaf straight from the oven, stacking cut slices wedged with butter between them so that it would melt quickly. We gobbled the first slices with garlic on them—our savory course—and then we’d slather them with honey for dessert.

But, while this bread sustained us at home, it was shameful in the school lunch box. Sitting at the lunchroom table, surrounded by classmates and their blue or red milk choices, I would have given a kidney for that 1970s staple: crustless Wonder bread with Skippy and Smucker’s grape jelly glue. I would have gladly sported an orange mouth ring of Cheetos crumbs and devoured a frosted Hostess cake in order that their chemicals could swirl kaleidoscopic in my gut. Not only are those foods designed for deliciousness, but carrying them in my lunch box would have been a ticket to belonging, an escape route from the requisite explanation of why I had rugged wheat bread slices spackle-bound with homemade peanut butter. Life in the chicken coop of elementary school is tough on young birds; spots are pecked, blemishes highlighted. Even today I find myself compensating where I can, giving care to my children’s lunches in order that they might survive. I like to imagine them opening their lunch boxes to envious eyes rather than teasing mouths. Carefully wrapped fresh muffins, crusty baguettes with butter, soups made from scratch, rich pastas in heated containers, a bonanza in every lunch box. And, while I may have decried that bread, even hidden it, years later I have turned things around. I’ve headed back to this form, which is entirely more delicious and healthy than plump factory loaves pumped with chemicals ranging from azodicarbonamide (also used in floor mats) to potassium bromate (known carcinogen). Supermarket aisles are proof that if you add enough high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and stabilizers, people will still eat the packaged stuff months after it is produced. And, I would argue, meeting the bar of being edible isn’t enough, not anymore. Bread deserves more, food deserves more, and most important, we deserve more. And we can have it quite easily. We are in the midst of a baking renaissance; more and more of us are using food as an opportunity to connect ourselves to our environment through eating, to handcraft through mindful ingredient choices and traditional methods. If you are new to bread making I encourage you to begin here, with this basic loaf. You can find, or return to, your own connection with this timeless staple, as I did.

MAMA’S BREAD

Yield: Two 9 by 5-inch pan loaves

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE) BAKER’S %

All-purpose flour 516 4¼ cups 50%

Whole wheat flour 516 4¼ cups 50%

Water 659 3 cups 64%

Salt, fine 21 1 tablespoon + ¾ teaspoon 2%

Yeast, dry instant 10 heaping 1 tablespoon 1%

Butter, unsalted 52 ¼ cup (4 tablespoons) 5%

Honey 26 1 tablespoon + ¾ teaspoon 2.50%

Butter, unsalted, for brushing the crust (optional)

1,800 174.50%

PREPARE

Melt the 52 grams (¼ cup) of butter.

MIX

Calculate temperatures. See Setting Temperatures for instructions. Desired dough temperature: 76°F

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, and yeast. Add the water, melted butter, and honey. Mix with your hand or the handle end of a wooden spoon until the dough forms a shaggy mass. With some doughs you may have to knead for a few strokes in the bowl to incorporate everything. If you find it easier, after some stirring, scrape the dough out of the bowl with a plastic scraper onto your work surface and knead briefly with your hands just until the dough comes together. Resist the urge to add more flour. Scrape the dough off the work surface and return to the bowl for bulk fermentation.

BULK FERMENTATION

Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and allow the dough to rise, covered, for 2 hours at room temperature, folding as directed below.

FOLD

Fold after 30 and 60 minutes, then leave untouched for the second hour. See Folding.

DIVIDE AND PRESHAPE

Divide the dough into 2 pieces weighing about 900 grams each. See Dividing for instructions.

Preshape as tubes. See Preshaping for instructions.

Cover and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

SHAPE

Spray or lightly grease two 9 by 5-inch loaf pans.

Shape the dough as pan loaves. See Shaping for instructions.

Place the dough in the prepared loaf pans, seam side down, pressing with your knuckles to evenly fill the pan.

PROOF

Cover and proof until the dough is 1 to 1½ inches above the top of the pan, 1 to 1½ hours.

BAKE

Toward the end of the proof, preheat the oven to 400°F.

Bake on the middle rack for 40 to 45 minutes, rotating after 30 minutes, until the top and sides are firm and the loaves are a deep golden brown.

Remove the bread from the pans and place on a cooling rack. For a softer crust, rub butter directly on the crust after baking, while the bread is still warm.

Bread pudding is a scrap quilt of baking. Pieces salvaged from this or that, a remnant that hardened before I got to it. With a few handfuls of raisins, sugar, some milk, and eggs, dessert is on the way. If we twist it slightly, remove the sugar, substitute stock for milk, and add sautéed garlic and fresh pear, onion, sausage, and sage, we can turn the dial to stuffing. For this recipe we will stick to sweet and make a sauce with whiskey, butter, and sugar, which would probably be good on just about anything.

BREAD PUDDING

Yield: One 9 by 13-inch pan

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

Milk, whole 976 4¼ cups

Stale bread, cut into 1-inch chunks 454 7½ to 8 cups

Eggs, large 150 3

Vanilla extract 28 2 tablespoons

Sugar, granulated 300 1½ cups

Raisins (optional) 150 1 cup

Butter, for greasing the pan

PREPARE

In a large bowl, combine the milk and stale bread, and allow to stand for 1 to 2 hours, or until the bread is tender and the milk has been mostly absorbed.

Apply a generous, even coating of butter to a 9 by 13-inch baking pan.

When the bread is tender, preheat the oven to 350°F.

MIX

Mix the eggs, vanilla, and sugar. Gently fold into the soaked bread and add the raisins, if using.

Pour into the prepared pan, spreading evenly if necessary.

BAKE

Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes.

The pudding is done when the crust is crisp in spots and springs back when pressed.

WHISKEY SAUCE

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

Butter, unsalted 85 6 tablespoons

Milk, whole 28 2 tablespoons

Salt, fine Pinch Pinch

Confectioners’ sugar 113 1 cup

Whiskey or half the amount of vanilla extract 42 3 tablespoons

SAUCE

While the pudding cools, make the sauce.

In a small pot over low heat, melt the butter with the milk and salt, then whisk in the confectioners’ sugar.

When the mixture is smooth, stir in the whiskey or vanilla.

Serve the pudding warm with the sauce on the side, or pass it in a gravy boat.

LEAVING

I left Arkansas in 1988. It was time and I was ready. Homes and starting places of all sizes, shapes, and spaces lie and wait for the leaving. As a parent I know it is coming—I watch and hold on with hurting heart as my own children, nestled today in an embrace, slowly outgrow my arms and lap in order to jump out, away from me. I, too, grew and flew, leaving limestone caverns, chicken houses, and roots in search of something different.

A tale of leaving is a rich weave, for, in the midst of change, movement, and parting of all sorts, there is will. A need unfulfilled, a calling, an avoidance, so many choices to change a course.

And, in this place where heart is used, stories are found. As we pack bags, we cull and categorize; this pile for the journey, this one for discard. Here, wings for flight. Here, a chrysalis holding a shape from before, now useless. In this winnowing we define ourselves, stripping off layers to go in the direction of the new.

My leaving path had begun years before when I joined a children’s choir at church. Over time and years I learned to be a cantor, leading evensong services, and singing baritone solos in Handel’s Messiah. In high school I saw a poster from Oberlin Conservatory—a nighttime picture taken from outside a practice building, the camera spying on multiple floors of illuminated students. There were singers, violinists, brass players, and pianists—focused faces with hearts working at the intersection of hands and mind. To see this was to crave it, I yearned to live in that space, far away from Hemmed-In Hollow and the rest of my native experience. And, with luck and to my great surprise, I arrived on that very campus on northern plains with unobstructed sunset views over flattened earth. And was struck dumb.

In that space I was allowed, able, and encouraged to hold music closely, to live within the sonorous walls of my own heart. Walking practice hall passages, I could overhear concertos and cadenzas, sonatas and arias, a front-row stroll through a cacophonous blender of Western art music. Or I could sit for multiple concerts a day, orchestra rehearsals, or dance recitals—all options, endless access to a space where time stops, where the gaps of silence between last notes and clapping hands are full and flowing. But the music is not the point, not necessarily the part that survives today. That which I’ve held on to is the proximity that I felt, the closing of a distance between passion and existence, I was able to live with what moved me and not as a casual partner; the connection was there to stay. This was a gift of that place, but not the only one.

Life happens collectively in small schools where student lounge becomes main drag, city square, saloon, and even flophouse. It was there that I met a girl, a soprano named Julie from a small village in upstate New York. Brown hair, gray-blue eyes, and real—no airs or affectation—honest, and beautiful. She was a year ahead but constantly appearing next to me. And I reciprocated, finding ways to forever bump into her. Casual turned to regular with notes, study dates, and endless pursuit. Whatever amount of time we spent together, it wasn’t enough.

Stories of life in different states and the exchange of histories led to talk of food, upbringing, and connections. And, if you spend that many moments together, you will eventually cook for each other, serving identities as the main course.

Perhaps predictable but at least consistent, the first card I played was the only one I held; black-eyed peas with cornmeal biscuits and molasses. It wasn’t a recipe I knew by heart. As I stirred dry ingredients and summoned guidance from below the Mason-Dixon Line, I felt my way through the process, turning the bowl, moving my hands in mock forms to imitate what I had seen, hoping the recipe on the container of cornmeal would produce a crunchy contrast to soft beans and bittersweet molasses. As we ate the ragged dropped forms, alternating with bites of beans from unmatched bowls, quiet settled. This wasn’t the first time that love was served on a baking sheet. Humans have always sat in circles, feeling the nourishment of fire, taking shelter from cold as food passed from mother to child, baker to stranger, or cook to company since the beginning of time. Each circle offers a chance to love anew, saying: Come, eat. In this spirit I made this simple meal, hoping she would accept these gifts of me, my edible history.

BLACK-EYED PEAS

Yield: One big pot of beans

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

Black-eyed peas, dried 454 2½ cups (about 1 pound)

Water for cooking 1,800 approximately 8 cups

Bacon, raw 143 6 to 7 slices (less if thick)

Onion 156 1 medium

Garlic 18 2 large cloves

Salt, fine 8 scant 1½ teaspoons

Black pepper, ground 6 2 teaspoons

Cider vinegar or hot sauce to taste 2 ½ teaspoon

Water or stock to thin the beans after cooking, if needed 227 1 cup

PREPARE

Rinse the beans, and remove any stones or debris.

PROCESS

Put the beans into a medium stockpot and cover by 2 inches with cold water. Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the beans are tender when you bite one, 1 to 2 hours. Add more water as needed so the beans are always covered while cooking.

While the beans cook, dice the bacon into ¼-inch pieces, chop the onion, and mince the garlic.

In a small sauté pan, cook the chopped bacon over low heat until the fat has rendered. Add the chopped onion and garlic and sauté until softened and translucent.

Add the bacon mixture to the beans. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Just before serving, add the cider vinegar or hot sauce to balance the natural sweetness of the beans.

There are meals that satisfy in both their frugality and their flavor. With tenderloin or fresh fish the bar is as high as the price tag but, with this lowly legume pressure swaps with enjoyment for a simple, happy mouth filled of peas, biscuits, and molasses.

If biscuits are quick and easy, these are even easier. Whereas I fret a little, looking for layers with a traditional rolled and cut biscuit, with these I worry less. Cornmeal is a non-glutenous flour, it adds tenderness as well as gorgeous color and flavor. The yellow crumb of these biscuits with a pat of butter and the black of molasses running off the side is enough. Simply enough.

CORNMEAL DROP BISCUITS

Yield: 12 to 16 small drop biscuits

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

All-purpose flour 200 1¾ cups

Cornmeal, yellow 138 1 cup

Salt, fine 5 scant 1 teaspoon

Baking powder 12 1 tablespoon

Baking soda 3 ½ teaspoon

Butter, unsalted, very cold 113 ½ cup (8 tablespoons)

Milk or buttermilk 250 1 cup + 2 tablespoons

PREPARE

Position an oven rack in the top third of the oven.

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Lightly grease a 13 by 18-inch sheet pan, or line it with parchment paper.

Measure the dry ingredients and chill until use.

MIX

Combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

Grate the butter into the dry ingredients. Toss to combine.

Add the milk or buttermilk. Mix until barely combined.

SHAPE

Drop the biscuits from a large spoon onto the prepared sheet pan.

BAKE

Bake for 18 to 22 minutes on the top rack, rotating after 14 minutes, until they are lightly golden and firm to the touch.

Cornmeal

As we’ve tested recipes and compared flavor, texture, and even weight per cup of volumetric measure we have found more variance in cornmeal than in any other dry ingredient. The most common national brand, sold in a round paper canister, has a sandy, homogeneous grind that feels and tastes nothing like the fluffy, color-flecked variety that my mother used to buy right off the millstone at Johnson’s Water Mill in Johnson, Arkansas. Looking for nationally available options that taste and perform better than the sandy stuff, I consistently prefer cornmeal labeled “stone ground,” especially meals from local sources that still retain the character of this beautiful grain. Look around: you are in for a treat.

Through this and many other meals we bonded—breaking bread in an oasis where our present selves—bumps and blemishes included—were acceptable and good enough for each other.

In the shelter of that meal space we could push back the crush of conservatory criticism and self-inspection and connect with each other, free of striving and pressure. A ramshackle house Julie shared with friends had shag carpets and wood paneling, and in its linoleumed kitchen a copy of James Beard’s Beard on Bread. That book, as well as an oil-stained spine-broken copy of The Joy of Cooking, was enough to get us making and baking. My first attempt at a chicken soup was prepared in a giant glass mixing bowl set directly on a glowing orange electric burner. While the liquid heated I confidently threw in leftover rice and chopped vegetables, then put my feet up as my masterpiece transformed itself. And change it did, with an ear-popping crack and geyser steam hiss, a full gallon of flavor concentrated itself on the heating element of the stove.

We began our baking with Beard’s Caccia Nanza and looked quizzically at the instructions, wondering if we could actually make it work. I had seen bread made many times, but there was a territory between the land of watching my mother add ingredients in intuitive amounts and that place where I would go it alone. Caccia Nanza is a flat, focaccia-like bread, studded with garlic clove spears; rubbed with olive oil, rosemary, and salt; and baked in a hot oven. As it happens, focaccia was an auspicious place to begin. Panis focacius, as the Romans called it, has roots that extend to the Greeks or Etruscans in the West, or, I would argue, back to our earliest relationship with grains and baking, irrespective of locality. In simple terms focacius can be translated as “from the ashes,” and is related to the Latin word focus, which means “hearth,” or “place for baking.” Soon after grains could be gathered, sprouted, brewed, crushed, or even milled, they were baked, but not in ovens. A dough was mixed, patted into a thin flat disk, then placed atop ashen coals, and turned to bake on both sides, or simply covered with more hot coals. So, I put my own hands into this earliest of baked forms in order to be transported back, to eat fresh bread and thus begin my own path with leavening. When I make this bread today, more has changed than not, but in those early moments perfection wasn’t as important as the soul-warming movement of ingredients to mouth.

As a novice baker, I had a hard time seeing the forest for the trees. It took time and mistakes to learn what was critically important and what was secondary. I was unsure where to concentrate, wholly unaware of dough hydration, flour choices (pastry, bread, white, whole wheat), baking surfaces (baking stone or baking sheet), mixing techniques, or length of fermentation, all of which have impact. I took the recipe as a prescription, like directions to a place where I’d never been. Carefully following it, I found some success when, reaching into the mass of kneaded dough after an initial rest, I felt that it had begun to rise slightly, becoming soft and silky, lively, and air-filled against my hand. I very clearly remember touching the dough with a shocked response, “It worked!” We baked that dough on a flimsy baking sheet, so cheap that it bowed and buckled with heat.

Today when I bake, I see this bread within a context; it is more than starches bound by protein chains and filled with gas from yeast’s activity—it is like a word, with roots in languages and cultures. It has a history in addition to its crunch, salt, oil, and herb.

FOCACCIA

Yield: One 13 by 18-inch pan (half-sheet pan) or two 9 by 13-inch pans (quarter-sheet pans) of focaccia

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE) BAKER’S %

All-purpose flour 740 6 cups + 1 tablespoon 100%

Water 502 2¼ cups 68%

Salt, fine 15 2½ teaspoons 2%

Yeast, dry instant 6 2 teaspoons 0.75%

Olive oil, extra virgin 37 3 tablespoons 5%

Olive oil, for greasing the pan

Prepared toppings, as desired

Total Weight 1,300 All 175.75%

MIX

Calculate temperatures. See Setting Temperatures for instructions. Desired dough temperature: 76°F

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add the water and extra virgin olive oil. Mix with your hand or the handle end of a wooden spoon until the dough forms a shaggy mass. With some doughs you may have to knead for a few strokes in the bowl to incorporate everything. If you find it easier, after some stirring, scrape the dough out of the bowl with a plastic scraper onto your work surface and knead briefly with your hands just until the dough comes together. Resist the urge to add more flour. Scrape the dough off the work surface and return it to the bowl for bulk fermentation.

BULK FERMENTATION

Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and allow the dough to rise, covered, for 2 hours at room temperature, folding as directed below.

FOLD

Fold after 15, 30, 45, and 60 minutes, then leave untouched for the second hour. See Folding for instructions.

Alternatively, after the 4 folds, the dough may be chilled for up to 24 hours. If using this method, allow the dough to rest for 1 to 2 hours at room temperature before proceeding to the dividing step.

DIVIDE

Leave the dough undivided for a single half-sheet pan or divide the dough into 2 pieces weighing about 650 grams each for quarter-sheet pans. See Dividing for instructions.

Do not preshape or fold the dough. Any rough handling will make stretching the dough more difficult.

Gently place the dough on a well-oiled sheet pan. Turn it once to coat both sides and then allow it to relax, covered, for 15 to 30 minutes.

After the rest, dimple the dough in the pan with your fingertips, distributing it evenly to the corners and sides. If the dough resists being stretched into place, allow it to relax a little longer before proceeding.

Variation: For a crustier, even more rustic version of focaccia, place the dough on parchment paper and bake it directly on a preheated baking stone rather than on a sheet pan.

TOPPING

Position an oven rack on a rung in the lower third of the oven.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Drizzle the dough with olive oil, and garnish with coarse salt, fresh herbs, roasted onions, hard cheese, cherry tomatoes, or anything else that suits your fancy, and allow to rise for 10 to 15 minutes.

BAKE

Bake the focaccia on the lower rack for 22 to 24 minutes, rotating after 15 minutes. After 22 to 24 minutes, turn the oven to broil and move the pan to an upper rack to brown the toppings for 1 to 2 minutes, keeping a close eye on it! The focaccia is done when the bottom crust is golden and the toppings are well colored.

Remove from the pan and cool on a wire rack. If the focaccia is left in the pan to cool, the crust will become soggy.

SIZING OPTION

Mini-focaccia are also an option. Portion the dough in rough squares weighing about 65 grams each. As with the larger pans of focaccia, any rough handling will make the dough more difficult to stretch. Place the divided pieces on a well-oiled sheet pan, about an inch apart, turning once to coat.

It is especially to important to aggressively dimple the mini-focaccia, pushing your fingers almost entirely through the dough. This will keep the dimpled surface; otherwise, it will dome too much.

For the mini-focaccia, check at 16 to 18 minutes, then move them to an upper rack and broil for 1 to 2 minutes, watching closely.

TAPENADE

Yield: 725 grams (about 3½ cups)

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

Bell peppers, 2 to 3 fresh, for roasting, or one 12-ounce jar, drained 130 1½ cups

Garlic, fresh 9 1 large clove

Anchovies, oil-packed, drained (2-ounce tin) 32 2 tablespoons

Olives, green, manzanilla or similar, drained (5.75-ounce jar) 120 1¼ cups

Olives, kalamata, drained (10-ounce jar) 171 1⅓ cups

Capers, drained (3.5-ounce jar) 65 ¼ cup

Olive oil, extra virgin 198 1 cup

Minced fresh basil, oregano, marjoram, or mint, for garnish (optional)

PROCESS

IF YOU ARE ROASTING YOUR OWN PEPPERS

Place 2 or 3 large, clean bell peppers over an open flame and char, turning occasionally, until well blackened.

Place in a paper bag or a bowl. Close the bag or cover the bowl, and let the peppers cool.

Rub off most the blackened skin, then seed and stem. Reserve until use.

TO MAKE THE TAPENADE

Place the garlic and anchovies in a food processor fitted with the cutting blade. Pulse to puree.

Add the olives, capers, and reserved bell peppers and pulse briefly, 5 to 10 seconds. Pause to scrape down the sides if necessary. The texture should be coarse, not pureed.

Stir in the olive oil and garnish with fresh herbs.

Before Food Network, before “EVOO” and “Bam!” entered the stockpot of our lexicon, and well before the cult of celebrity replaced the cult of capability, there was a series on PBS called Great Chefs. Narrated by Mary Lou Conroy in her inviting southern drawl, the shows were the best thing before food TV and have remained the greatest thing since. Episodes were built around cities and their great foods, focusing tightly on technique, flavor, and craftspeople. They were a gateway drug that led me to Baking with Julia, Jacques Pépin, and beyond. It is no exaggeration to say that I received my informal culinary education in thirty-minute chunks. Following Julia, I found a French bread recipe, published in the New York Times magazine, which I hoped would approximate the flavor of loaves we could buy at the West Side Market in Cleveland. It was my first attempt at a hand-shaped artisan bread.

BASIC FRENCH DOUGH

Yield: 2 boules or bâtards, or 4 baguettes

TOTAL FORMULA

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE) BAKER’S %

All-purpose flour 478 4 cups 85%

Whole wheat flour 85 scant ¾ cup 15%

Water 422 1¾ cups + 2 tablespoons 75%

Salt, fine 11 scant 2 teaspoons 2%

Yeast, dry instant 4 1¼ teaspoons 0.75%

Total Weight 1,000 177.75%

MIX

Calculate temperatures. See Setting Temperatures for instructions. Desired dough temperature: 76°F

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, and yeast. Add the water and mix with your hand or the handle end of a wooden spoon until the dough forms a shaggy mass. With some doughs you may have to knead for a few strokes in the bowl to incorporate everything. If you find it easier, after some stirring, scrape the dough out of the bowl with a plastic scraper onto your work surface and knead briefly with your hands just until the dough comes together. Resist the urge to add more flour. Scrape the dough off the work surface and return it to the bowl for bulk fermentation.

BULK FERMENTATION

Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and allow the dough to rise, covered, for 3 hours at room temperature, folding as directed below.

FOLD

Fold after 15, 30, 45, 60, and 120 minutes, then leave untouched for the third hour. See Folding for instructions.

As you perform each series of folds, you’ll begin to notice that the dough becomes smoother, stronger, and more cohesive.

DIVIDE AND PRESHAPE

For boules or bâtards, divide the dough into 2 pieces weighing about 500 grams each. See Dividing for instructions.

Preshape as rounds. See Preshaping for instructions.

Cover and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

For baguettes, divide the dough into 4 pieces weighing about 250 grams each. See Dividing for instructions.

Preshape as tubes. See Preshaping for instructions.

Cover and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

SHAPE

Shape as boules, bâtards, or baguettes. See Shaping for instructions.

Place boules, seam side up, in a floured, tea towel–lined banneton or bowl, approximately 9 inches wide and 3½ inches deep.

Place bâtards and baguettes, seam side up, on a floured couche, and pleat the couche between the loaves to support the sides as they rise.

PROOF

Cover the loaves and proof for about 45 to 55 minutes.

BAKE

During the proof, preheat the oven to 450°F (for bâtards or boules) or 500°F (for baguettes) with a baking stone and steaming system in place. See Baking for instructions.

Transfer the loaves to parchment paper or a baker’s peel, gently inverting them so that the underside, which was against the dusted tea towel, linen, or banneton, becomes the top.

Score the bread prior to loading. See Scoring for ideas and tips.

Slide the loaves onto the preheated baking stone.

For bâtards or boules, bake with steam for 35 to 40 minutes. After 20 minutes, carefully remove any steaming devices, lids, parchment paper, or bowls. Rotate the loaves on the stone.

At 35 to 40 minutes the bâtards or boules should be well colored. Turn off the oven, prop open the door a few inches, and allow the loaves to dry for an additional 10 minutes.

For baguettes, bake with steam for 22 to 25 minutes. After 18 minutes, carefully remove any steaming devices, lids, or parchment paper. Rotate the loaves on the stone.

At 22 to 25 minutes the baguettes should be well colored and feel light when picked up. Turn off the oven, prop open the door a few inches, and allow the loaves to dry for an additional 5 minutes.

In order to chip away at my student debt, I worked in dining halls, I waited tables, I did yard work and then eventually lucked into a job at a shiny pizzeria with a display kitchen near a mall outside Cleveland, Ohio. I arrived early in the day to gather hardwood logs from pallets near the Dumpster and stoke the wood-fired brick oven to over 1,000°F before letting it fall to around 800°F in order to bake pizzas in a few minutes. While the fire crackled, burning the oven’s interior clean, I prepared doughs and toppings and waited with clean tools and a crisp apron for customers to arrive. And sometimes while waiting, I made myself a pie, my first food of the day.

Place the wooden peel, blackened from heat and use, on the counter and sprinkle evenly and generously with coarse cornmeal. Cornmeal keeps the dough from sticking and, once toasted, adds a nutty speckled crunch to the bottom crust. Stretch the dough thinly and evenly and gently place on the peel, carefully tugging it to form a perfect circle. Ladle a scoop of red sauce in the center and spread, spiraling outward in a nautilus shape, stopping just shy of the crust edge. Add whole-milk mozzarella and a small shower of grated smoked cheese. A couple of shakes of the peel will confirm that the pie isn’t adhering before it is sent onto the hearth near licking flames. Loading a pie off the peel is a skill that takes time to master—it is a movement in two parts: a fling forward and a snap back, the timing of which requires practice and learning from mistakes. In the early seconds a well-heated oven will puff the edge crust, producing large, irregular dough bubbles. Then, as sauce, crust, and cheese superheat, ingredients boil, shimmering and pushing pipes of steam up, backlit by orange light, as the cheese darkens and the crust colors deeply. If something is missing at that moment, none of us waiting in the fire glow for pizza will care, for worries melt and hearts lighten. I had no hair on my arms that entire summer but did have the best pizza of my life and, most important, I was back to making things, using my hands, my nose, my mouth, and my smile.

I continue to love the simplicity of hot fire, dark crust, red sauce, and molten cheese—humans have been topping and baking flatbreads much longer than tomatoes or pastas have been in Italy. From Asia to Africa, South America to the Pacific Rim, many cultures have found their way through naan, roti, pita, and paratha to eat flat things both plain and topped. This vestigial connection between heart and hearth continues today even if much of the bread eaten in America isn’t made with human hands. Both heart and hearth hold warmth and life force, each near the center of its structure. The words that relate to fireplace, the focus of a home, are endless and enduring and extend into our baking lives—even the floor of an oven is referred to as the sole. And, while the best of these pizzas are baked with live fire, great pizza can also be had from the home oven.

PIZZA NAPOLETANA

Yield: Four 8- to 10-inch Neapolitan-style pizzas

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE) BAKER’S %

All-purpose flour 579 4¾ cups + 1 tablespoon 100%

Water 406 1¾ cups 70%

Salt, fine 12 1 tablespoon 2%

Yeast, dry instant 3 1 teaspoon 0.60%

Oil, for greasing the containers

Cornmeal or semolina, for dusting the baker’s peel (optional but helpful)

Total Weight 1,000 172.60%

Prepared toppings, as desired

DAY ONE

MIX

Calculate temperatures. See Setting Temperatures for instructions. Desired dough temperature: 76°F

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add the water. Mix with your hand or the handle end of a wooden spoon until the dough forms a shaggy mass. With some doughs you may have to knead for a few strokes in the bowl to incorporate everything. If you find it easier, after some stirring, scrape the dough out of the bowl with a plastic scraper onto your work surface and knead briefly with your hands just until the dough comes together. Resist the urge to add more flour. Scrape the dough off the work surface and return to the bowl for the bulk fermentation.

BULK FERMENTATION

Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and allow the dough to rise, covered, for 2 hours at room temperature, folding as directed below.

FOLD

Fold after 60 minutes, then leave untouched for the second hour. See Folding for instructions.

DIVIDE AND PRESHAPE

Divide the dough into 4 pieces weighing about 250 grams each. See Dividing for instructions.

Preshape as rounds and place in individual oiled plastic containers; recycled quart-size yogurt containers are perfect. Seal the lids and chill overnight, or up to 48 hours. See Preshaping for instructions.

DAY TWO

SHAPE

Remove the containers from the refrigerator and let them warm to room temperature for 1 to 2 hours. A good trick for this is to flour your work surface, then take off the lids and invert the containers, letting the doughs gently fall and settle as they warm.

While the doughs warm, prepare the toppings and sauce.

About an hour before you plan to bake the pizzas, preheat the oven to 500°F with a baking stone or pizza steel placed in the upper third of the oven.

After the doughs have warmed, lift the inverted containers off the dough pieces and flour the top of the dough generously.

Gently pat a piece of dough to remove any large air bubbles and stretch it into a small round, 4 to 5 inches in diameter.

Next, working with your fingertips and starting in the center of the dough, press down and move outward in concentric circles dimpling the gas from the dough, leaving an inch of rim untouched around the entire piece. Check periodically to see if additional flour is needed under the dough. If it sticks, release it gently with a bench knife and add more flour.

Holding only the outer rim of the dough and leaving the dough in contact with the bench, work around the perimeter, stretching gently, slowly coaxing the dough into a thin round 9 to 10 inches in diameter. If the dough resists being stretched, cover it and allow it to rest and relax for 20 to 30 minutes.

BAKE

Turn the preheated oven to broil.

Generously sprinkle a wooden peel with semolina or cornmeal and place the dough on it, jiggling the peel forward and backward to ensure the dough isn’t sticking.

Top the pizza with ½ cup of red sauce using a large kitchen spoon or an offset spatula. Then add a few slices of fresh mozzarella or any other topping desired, being careful to leave a ½-inch margin around the outside of the pizza with no toppings. Moisture that breaks this margin will adhere the dough to the peel every time!

If this feels daunting, try your first few pizzas on baker’s parchment paper that has been cut to a diameter slightly larger than your intended pie. The crust will be almost as good.

Slide the pizza onto the preheated stone or pizza steel and set a 3-minute timer.

When the timer goes off, rotate the pizza 180 degrees and reset for 1 minute.

Be prepared with tongs and a plate, a cooling rack, or a cutting board to take the pizza out. The toppings should be well cooked and the dough around the edges should be dark.

Before loading the next pizza, check that the stone or steel is clean of the dusting cornmeal or semolina.

Red sauce for pizza can be as simple as a jar of good tomato sauce opened, spread thinly, and garnished with fresh herbs. Or, you may take the scenic route and sauté garlic, onion, celery, and carrots in olive oil; add fresh tomatoes; reduce; soften; and puree. Two roads to a happy place.

RED SAUCE

Yield: 850 grams (4 cups)

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

Olive oil, extra virgin 50 ¼ cup

Black pepper, ground 3 1 teaspoon

Salt, fine 12 2 teaspoons

Onion, chopped 142 1 medium

Carrot, chopped 130 2 medium

Celery, chopped 50 1 medium stalk

Garlic, minced 9 1 clove

Tomatoes, fresh, cored and roughly chopped 900 2 pounds

Basil, fresh 3 ¼ cup

PREPARE

Heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat, then add the pepper, salt, onion, carrot, and celery. Sauté for 2 to 3 minutes, to soften the vegetables.

Add the garlic and sauté briefly, then set the heat to medium-low and leave untouched for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to color slightly.

Reduce the heat to low, then add the tomatoes.

Add the basil and simmer over low heat until thickened. The time required will vary by tomato variety and relative moisture content. Beefsteak tomatoes have more liquid than plum (paste) tomatoes (such as Roma).

When the sauce reaches a consistency that is still pourable but not watery (it will lightly coat the back of a dipped wooden spoon), turn off the heat, taste, adjust the seasonings, and cool.

Puree before use.

We graduated from Oberlin and decided without discussion that we would stick together. We had auditioned for graduate programs, but rather than take different paths, we loaded our car beyond capacity and drove west to the Bay Area of California—a new life, a new coast; new voice teachers, taquerias, wine country, sunshine, and the endless cold ocean. We could sing in many languages; we had learned stagecraft and diction, Renaissance dance and European art song traditions, but what, of all of this, related to our roots? So much time spent acquiring the words and music of other cultures and centuries. For what? Art happens when we speak, when who and what we are is given expression by means of the tools and skills we acquire. I do understand the need for training—a young person needs skills—but, in retrospect, to spend too much time in this place, where you can visit everyone’s home but your own, still leaves you homeless.

The summer after we landed in California we scraped together money for plane tickets to Europe to spend an extended shoestring-budget summer in Italy, bathing full body in culture, language, and music. We stayed at Julie’s cousin Steven’s flat in Rome, sleeping on a hide-a-bed, awakened daily by a grand piano as Steven practiced Tchaikovsky’s epic Concerto No. 1 in preparation for a concert. We followed his directions to neighborhood markets. One for meat, selling rabbits with furry feet for the savvy consumer to confirm they weren’t cats. One for bread with enormous dusty boulder loaves for sale by the kilo and thin cracker bread with olive oil and rosemary. Yet another sold vegetables—piles of artichokes, fresh figs, eggplants, and bright peppers—and there were many for pizza, sold al taglio in rectangular portions. Steven’s country home was north of the city in a tiny hill town with fountains from the 1400s and a bread oven in his backyard, built into a rocky hillside. If in music one lives in a place where the heart is passionately connected to work, in Italy we saw this connection extend to our food; we witnessed a link, which wasn’t at all a movement or trend—it was the only way. To sit and eat was to take a table-length walking tour, our mouths traveling around Bassano in Teverina, stepping from plate to plate, from winery to fruit tree, through tomato patches, past grazing goats. Handmade fresh ricotta, olive oil, and wine all brought in abundance from the kitchen of Steven’s housekeeper. Crusty rosette rolls, eaten simply with a slice of pecorino Romano and pancetta; no big box stores, no freezers. The hill towns of Italy, rising from verdant plains, are built on rocks holding stacked fortress walls constructed of stones from underfoot a millennium earlier. These layers of earth, stone, and home are honest and resonate as fully and naturally as tones of a chord align and ring. The imagined world of Italy, which we’d lived between the flat covers of Puccini opera scores, was vibrant and breathing before our eyes in a way we could eat. The simplicity, and the sense of it all, changed me; there was no going back; there was only going closer.

South of Rome there is a town called Genzano da Roma. Many know Genzano for the annual flower festival, which blossom-paints its large central via in geometric patterns and perfumed flower portraiture. But I leave Rome for a different aroma, for this town holds more wood-fired bread ovens per capita than any other city in the world. Wine lovers have Bordeaux, for mariachi there is Jalisco, and for bread heads Genzano is legendary. Large loaves rolled in coarse bran are picked from superheated wood ovens daily, baked so dark you would swear the baker fell asleep. To make Pane Genzano, a wet dough with ample water and soft flour is mixed with sourdough culture and salt before fermenting. The loaves are then divided, gently shaped into either a pagnotta (a large round) or a filone (a tube), and laid on bran-lined baker’s linen to proof. What exits the oven at the end of baking looks not that dissimilar from the wood used to fire the ovens. The dark crust—eggshell crisp and light—protects a crumb that is moist and glossy, perfumed with the acids from the sourdough culture and from the tobacco-dark crust itself.

PANE GENZANO

Yield: 1 large pagnotta, or 2 medium pagnottelle

TOTAL FORMULA

PREFERMENTED FLOUR: 25%

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE) BAKER’S %

All-purpose flour 657 scant 5½ cups 100%

Water 494 2¼ cups 75%

Salt, fine 13 2¼ teaspoons 2%

Yeast, dry instant 3 1 teaspoon 0.50%

Sourdough culture 33 heaping 2 tablespoons 5%

Coarse wheat bran, for the crust

Total Weight 1,200 All 182.50%

STIFF LEVAIN

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE) BAKER’S %

All-purpose flour 164 1½ cups 100%

Water 99 ½ cup 60%

Sourdough culture 33 heaping 2 tablespoons 20%

Total Weight 296 All 180%

FINAL DOUGH

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

Water 395 1¾ cups

Stiff levain 296 All

All-purpose flour 493 scant 4 cups

Salt, fine 13 2¼ teaspoons

Yeast, dry instant 3 1 teaspoon

Total Weight 1,200 All

DAY ONE:

STIFF LEVAIN

In a medium bowl, combine the tepid water (75°F to 80°F) and sourdough culture. Mix with your hands and fingers until the culture is broken up and well distributed in the water, then add the flour.

Mix briefly, then knead until smooth.

Cover and set at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours.

DAY TWO

MIX

Calculate temperatures. See Setting Temperatures for instructions. Desired dough temperature: 76F

In a large mixing bowl, combine the final dough water and stiff levain. Mix with your hands until the levain is broken up in the water, then add the flour, salt, and yeast. Stir with the handle end of a wooden spoon until the dough forms a shaggy mass. If you find it easier, after some stirring, scrape the dough out of the bowl with a plastic scraper onto your work surface and knead briefly with your hands just until the dough comes together. Resist the urge to add more flour. Scrape the dough off the work surface and return it to the bowl for bulk fermentation.

BULK FERMENTATION

Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and allow the dough to rise, covered, for 3 hours at room temperature, folding as directed below.

FOLD

Fold after 15, 30, 45, 60, and 120 minutes, then leave untouched for the third hour. See Folding for instructions.

As you perform each series of folds, you’ll begin to notice that the dough becomes smoother, stronger, and more cohesive.

DIVIDE AND PRESHAPE

If making a single large pagnotta, preshape as a round. See Preshaping for instructions.

Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.

If making 2 pagnottelle, divide the dough into 2 pieces weighing about 600 grams each. See Dividing for instructions.

Preshape as rounds. See Preshaping for instructions.

Cover and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes.

SHAPE

To make the bran crust, layer ¼ inch of bran on a rimmed sheet pan. On a second pan, place a well-moistened tea towel or dish towel.

Shape as boules. See Shaping for instructions.

Press the top side into the moistened towel and roll the moist top in coarse bran, thoroughly and heavily coating the top of the loaf.

Place the large pagnotta, seam side up, in a banneton or towel-lined bowl, approximately 10 inches wide and 4 inches deep, that has been sprinkled with additional bran.

Place the two medium boules, seam side up, in bannetons or towel-lined bowls, approximately 9 inches wide and 3½ inches deep, that have been sprinkled with additional bran.

As this dough is quite wet, take the additional step of dusting the seam side of each loaf after placing it in the basket or couche.

PROOF

Cover and proof for 60 to 75 minutes at room temperature.

BAKE

During the proof, preheat the oven to 500°F with a baking stone and steaming system in place. See Baking for instructions.

Transfer the loaves to parchment paper or a baker’s peel, gently inverting them so that the underside, which was against the dusted tea towel or banneton, becomes the top.

Slide the loaves onto the preheated baking stone.

Bake with steam for 35 to 40 minutes. After 25 minutes, carefully remove any steaming devices, lids, parchment paper, or bowls. Rotate the loaves on the stone.

At 35 to 40 minutes the loaves should be well colored. If making a single large loaf, bake 10 minutes longer than the two medium loaves.

Turn off the oven, prop open the door a few inches, and allow the loaves to dry for an additional 10 minutes.

FILONE DI SESAME

Yield: 3 medium loaves

TOTAL FORMULA

PREFERMENTED FLOUR: 25%

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE) BAKER’S %

All-purpose flour 465 3¾ cups + 2 tablespoons 100%

Water 364 1½ cups + 1 tablespoon 78%

Salt, fine 9 1½ teaspoons 2%

Yeast, dry instant 2 ¾ teaspoon 0.50%

Sourdough culture 23 1½ tablespoons 5%

Sesame seeds 37 ¼ cup 8%

Sesame seeds, for the crust

Total Weight 900 All 193.50%

STIFF LEVAIN

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE) BAKER’S %

All-purpose flour 116 1 cup 100%

Water 70 ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon 60%

Sourdough culture 23 1½ tablespoons 20%

Total Weight 209 All 180%

FINAL DOUGH

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

Water 294 1¼ cups

Stiff levain 209 All

All-purpose flour 349 2¾ cups + 2 tablespoons

Salt, fine 9 1½ teaspoons

Yeast, dry instant 2 ¾ teaspoon

Sesame seeds 37 ¼ cup

Total Weight 900 All

DAY ONE

STIFF LEVAIN

In a medium bowl, combine the tepid water (75°F to 80°F) and the sourdough culture. Mix with your hands and fingers until the culture is broken up and well distributed in the water, then add the flour.

Mix briefly, then knead until smooth.

Cover and set at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours.

DAY TWO

PREPARE

Put the sesame seeds in a large heavy pan set over low to medium heat.

Toast the seeds, stirring and moving them around, until golden; they will often pop some as they toast. This toasting may also be done on a sheet pan in a 400°F oven, for about 10 minutes.

MIX

Calculate temperatures. See Setting Temperatures for instructions. Desired dough temperature: 76°F

In a large mixing bowl, combine the final dough water and stiff levain. Mix with your hands until the levain is broken up in the water, then add the flour, salt, yeast, and sesame seeds. Stir with the handle end of a wooden spoon until the dough forms a shaggy mass. If you find it easier, after some stirring, scrape the dough out of the bowl with a plastic scraper onto your work surface and knead briefly with your hands just until the dough comes together. Resist the urge to add more flour. Scrape the dough off the work surface and return it to the bowl for bulk fermentation.

BULK FERMENTATION

Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and allow the dough to rise, covered, for 3 hours at room temperature, folding as directed below.

FOLD

Fold after 15, 30, 45, 60, and 120 minutes, then leave untouched for the third hour. See Folding for instructions.

As you perform each series of folds, you’ll begin to notice that the dough becomes smoother, stronger, and more cohesive.

DIVIDE AND SHAPE

To make the sesame seed crust, place the sesame seeds on a sheet pan. On a second pan, place a well-moistened tea towel or dish towel.

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and gently stretch to a 9 by 12-inch rough rectangle.

Divide the dough into 3 pieces, roughly 3 by 12 inches and weighing about 300 grams each. It’s OK if you choose to divide them by eye rather than using the scale; keep them as even as possible. See Dividing for instructions.

Set the top side of each piece on the moistened towel, then roll in sesame seeds and place on a lightly floured baker’s linen (couche) or tea towel, top side down. Be sure to get as many seeds on the crust as possible. Pleat the couche between the loaves to support their sides as they rise.

PROOF

Cover and proof for 60 to 75 minutes at room temperature.

BAKE

During the proof, preheat the oven to 500°F with a baking stone and steaming system in place. See Baking for instructions.

Transfer the loaves to parchment paper or a baker’s peel, gently inverting them so that the underside, which was against the dusted tea towel or linen, becomes the top.

Slide the loaves onto the preheated baking stone.

Bake with steam for 25 to 30 minutes. After 15 minutes, carefully remove any steaming devices, lids, parchment paper, or bowls. Rotate the loaves on the stone.

At 25 to 30 minutes the loaves should be well colored. Turn off the oven, prop open the door a few inches, and allow the loaves to dry for an additional 10 minutes.

For a foreigner in a foreign country there are many benefits to association. The tourist, starving and blind, wandering, lusting for authenticity, is mostly lost unless guided by locals, especially where the native tongue is required. In Rome our “in” was Julie’s cousin. Steven, an American expat, now a dual citizen, working for Rome opera as a coach and accompanist, could sing us a tune about where to go and was happy to come along. During the summer, Rome Opera set up outside in the Roman baths, the Terme di Caracalla, for Aïda with live elephants, Turandot with choral armies, and other crowning achievements of Italian opera, all framed by crumbling skyward columns of Roman brick. On Steven’s coattails we could ride past ticket takers and find open seats five nights a week if we wanted. During intermissions the concessions would open and offer vino, gelato, sparkling water, and panini among other treats. The panini were a revelation in simplicity. A crusty roll or hunk of bread, a slice of cheese (pecorino Romano), and a piece of pancetta or prosciutto di Parma. Basta cosí—let’s call it a day. This crusty loaf can be made at home, like many breads, with some time but little effort.

CIABATTA

Yield: 2 large loaves

TOTAL FORMULA

PREFERMENTED FLOUR: 33%

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE) BAKER’S %

All-purpose flour 614 5 cups + 1 tablespoon 100%

Water 492 2 cups + 2 tablespoons 80%

Salt, fine 12 2 teaspoons 2%

Yeast, dry instant 2 ¾ teaspoon 0.40%

Total Weight 1,120 All 182.40%

BIGA

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE) BAKER’S %

All-purpose flour 203 1¾ cups 100%

Water 122 ½ cup 60%

Yeast, dry instant Pinch Pinch 0.10%

Total Weight 325 All 160.10%

FINAL DOUGH

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

Water 370 1½ cups + 2 tablespoons

Biga 325 All

All-purpose flour 411 3¼ cups + 1 tablespoon

Salt, fine 12 2 teaspoons

Yeast, dry instant 2 scant ¾ teaspoon

Total Weight 1,120 All

DAY ONE

BIGA

In a medium bowl, stir together the room-temperature flour and yeast, then add the tepid water (75°F to 80°F).

Mix briefly, then knead until smooth.

Cover and set at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours.

DAY TWO

MIX

Calculate temperatures. See Setting Temperatures for instructions. Desired dough temperature: 76°F

In a large mixing bowl, combine the final dough water and biga. Mix with your hands until the biga is broken up in the water, then add the flour, salt, and yeast. Stir with the handle end of a wooden spoon until the dough forms a shaggy mass. If you find it easier, after some stirring, scrape the dough out of the bowl with a plastic scraper onto your work surface and knead briefly with your hands just until the dough comes together. Resist the urge to add more flour. Scrape the dough off the work surface and return it to the bowl for bulk fermentation.

BULK FERMENTATION

Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and allow the dough to rise, covered, for 3 hours at room temperature, folding as directed below.

FOLD

Fold after 30, 60, 90, and 120 minutes, then leave untouched for the third hour. See Folding for instructions.

As you perform each series of folds, you’ll begin to notice that the dough becomes smoother, stronger, and more cohesive.

DIVIDE AND SHAPE

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and gently stretch to an 8 by 12-inch rough rectangle.

Using a bench knife or chef’s knife, cut the rectangle exactly in half along the long axis, and place on a generously floured baker’s linen (couche) or tea towel. Pleat the couche between the loaves to support their sides as they rise.

PROOF

Cover and proof for 45 to 60 minutes at room temperature.

BAKE

During the proof, preheat the oven to 475°F with a baking stone and steaming system in place. See Baking for instructions.

Transfer the loaves to parchment paper or a baker’s peel, gently inverting them so that the underside, which was against the dusted tea towel or linen, becomes the top.

Slide the loaves onto the preheated baking stone.

Bake with steam for 32 to 35 minutes. After 20 minutes, carefully remove any steaming devices, lids, or parchment paper. Rotate the loaves on the stone.

At 25 to 30 minutes the loaves should be well colored. Turn off the oven, prop open the door a few inches, and allow the loaves to dry for an additional 10 minutes.

Pain rustique has nothing to do with pain; rather, it’s the intersection of aromatic crumb and sturdy crust. Pain, as you may know, is the French word for “bread.” A rustique is simply a rustic loaf, unshaped in the traditional sense. Sound like ciabatta? Yes, it is very similar but easier for the French to pronounce than “ciabatta.” The rustique, like ciabatta, can handle a wide variety of amendments from simple herbs and olive oil to cured meat or dried fruits and nuts. Here is a favorite flavor marriage—good olives, olive oil, and fresh rosemary. At my house we pour olive oil on a plate and then pool some balsamic vinegar in the middle. Tear off a chunk of the bread and dip, picking up the fruity oil and the sharp vinegar and introducing them to olives and herbs in your mouth. And, of course, have a glass of prosecco or vinho verde.

OLIVE AND ROSEMARY RUSTIQUE

Yield: 2 large loaves

TOTAL FORMULA

PREFERMENTED FLOUR: 20%

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE) BAKER’S %

All-purpose flour 499 4 cups + 2 tablespoons 100%

Water 358 1½ cups + 1 tablespoon 72%

Salt, fine 10 1½ teaspoons 2%

Yeast, dry instant 3 1 teaspoon 0.60%

Olives, Kalamata 110 ¾ cup 22%

Olive oil, extra virgin 10 1½ teaspoons 2%

Rosemary, fresh 10 2 teaspoons 2%

Total Weight 1,000 All 200.60%

BIGA

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE) BAKER’S %

All-purpose flour 165 1¼ cups + 2 tablespoons 100%

Water 99 ¼ cup + 3 tablespoons 60%

Yeast, dry instant Pinch Pinch 0.10%

Total Weight 264 All 160.10%

FINAL DOUGH

INGREDIENTS METRIC (GRAMS) VOLUMETRIC (APPROXIMATE)

Water 259 1 cup + 2 tablespoons

Biga 264 All

All-purpose flour 334 2¾ cups

Salt, fine 10 1½ teaspoons

Yeast, dry instant 3 1 teaspoon

Olives, Kalamata 110 ¾ cup

Olive oil, extra virgin 10 1½ teaspoons

Rosemary, fresh 10 2 teaspoons

Total Weight 1,000 All

DAY ONE

BIGA

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour and yeast, then add the tepid water (75°F to 80°F).

Mix briefly, then knead until smooth.

Cover and set at room temperature for 12 to 16 hours.

DAY TWO

PREPARE

Pit and coarsely chop the olives.

Stem and mince the rosemary.

MIX

Calculate temperatures. See Setting Temperatures for instructions. Desired dough temperature: 76°F

In a large mixing bowl, combine the final dough water and biga. Mix with your hands until the biga is broken up in the water, then add the flour, salt, and yeast. Stir with the handle end of a wooden spoon until the dough forms a shaggy mass. If you find it easier, after some stirring, scrape the dough out of the bowl with a plastic scraper onto your work surface and knead briefly with your hands just until the dough comes together. Resist the urge to add more flour. Scrape the dough off the work surface and return it to the bowl for bulk fermentation.

Place the olives, olive oil, and rosemary on top of the mixed dough and fold briefly to begin incorporation. It doesn’t need to be homogeneous; these ingredients will fully incorporate during folding.

BULK FERMENTATION

Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl and allow the dough to rise, covered, for 3 hours at room temperature, folding as directed below.

FOLD

Fold after 15, 30, 45, 60, and 120 minutes, then leave untouched for the third hour. See Folding for instructions.

As you perform each series of folds, you’ll begin to notice that the dough becomes smoother, stronger, and more cohesive.

DIVIDE AND SHAPE

Turn the dough out onto a generously floured surface and gently stretch to a 9 by 12-inch rough rectangle.

Using a bench knife or chef’s knife, cut exactly in half along the long axis, and place on a generously floured baker’s linen (couche) or tea towel. Pleat the couche between the loaves to support their sides as they rise.

PROOF

Cover and proof for 30 to 45 minutes at room temperature.

BAKE

During the proof, preheat the oven to 475°F with a baking stone and steaming system in place. See Baking for instructions.

Transfer the loaves to parchment paper or a baker’s peel, gently inverting them so that the underside, which was against the dusted tea towel or linen, becomes the top.

Slide the loaves onto the preheated baking stone.

Bake with steam for 32 to 35 minutes. After 20 minutes, carefully remove any steaming devices, lids, or parchment paper. Rotate the loaves on the stone.

At 32 to 35 minutes the loaves should be well colored. Turn off the oven, prop open the door a few inches, and allow the loaves to dry for an additional 10 minutes.

 

 

“I bake because it connects my soul to my hands, and my heart to my mouth.”—Martin Philip

A brilliant, moving meditation on craft and love, and an intimate portrait of baking and our communion with food—complete with seventy-five original recipes and illustrated with dozens of photographs and original hand-drawn illustrations—from the head bread baker of King Arthur Flour.

Yearning for creative connection, Martin Philip traded his finance career in New York City for an entry-level baker position at King Arthur Flour in rural Vermont. A true Renaissance man, the opera singer, banjo player, and passionate amateur baker worked his way up, eventually becoming head bread baker. But Philip is not just a talented craftsman; he is a bread shaman. Being a baker isn’t just mastering the chemistry of flour, salt, water, and yeast; it is being an alchemist—perfecting the transformation of simple ingredients into an elegant expression of the soul.

Breaking Bread is an intimate tour of Philip’s kitchen, mind, and heart. Through seventy-five original recipes and life stories told with incandescent prose, he shares not only the secrets to creating loaves of unparalleled beauty and flavor but the secrets to a good life. From the butter biscuits, pecan pie, and whiskey bread pudding of his childhood in the Ozarks to French baguettes and focaccias, bagels and muffins, cinnamon buns and ginger scones, Breaking Bread is a guide to wholeheartedly embracing the staff of life.

Philip gently guides novice bakers and offers recipes and techniques for the most advanced levels. He also includes a substantial technical section covering the bread-making process, tools, and ingredients. As he illuminates an artisan’s odyssey and a life lived passionately, he reveals how the act of baking offers spiritual connection to our pasts, our families, our culture and communities, and, ultimately, ourselves. Exquisite, sensuous, and delectable, Breaking Bread inspires us to take risks, make bolder choices, live more fully, and bake bread and break it with those we love.

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