Peter Reinhart

Decades, Sprouted Wheat.

In two weeks, I'll have been married for a decade.  A decade.  That frame of time seems both long and short as I look back over it.  Time in general has started to feel completely relative in nature: in perpetual fast forward as I look at my boys growing bodies day by day, in slow motion as I watch things in the kitchen sprout and grow, in stubborn reverse as I look back over the things that might have been or could have been if events hadn't played out the way they did.  

A decade, almost all of it full of slow food and homemaking as a profession.  I don't know many who do their taxes and put "homemaker" down in the box - every year I think of that.  The term, also in print on my boys' birth certificates, seems antiquated and humbling and yet it is the thing I am most proud of.  I never dreamed I'd even have children let alone have the autonomy to watch them closely every day, hold onto the minutes, the hours, the years and try (at times) to remember to not wish them away.  I never knew how happy tending a home full time would make me, and I worry that if I ever had to be doing something else full time it would kill me.  I watch over my home, the center of which is (of course) this kitchen, and there is nothing else I'd rather be doing.

Another relationship began 5 years ago, the one involving wild yeast.  That relationship parallels the ones with my husband and children in perplexingly similar ways.  Living, breathing, growing, changing, I can't neglect it and I can't ever predict it.  Just when I think things are going horribly, out pops a tremendous and amazing reminder that slow and steady wins the race.  That glorious things can come from strange circumstance.

sprouted wheat, Ball jar.

In the new batch of cookbooks rented, I've been enjoying Peter Reinhart's Bread Revolution.  It focuses on sprouted wheat breads both with conventional yeast and wild yeast and also a host of quick bread and baked good recipes using sprouted grain flours.  When I had first sprouted my own wheat a few years back, I couldn't get over the flavor of it - but I did notice the difference in how it baked.  Reinhart of course is able to explain this better than I ever could, and leave it to him to come up with a whole book full of recipes highlighting how to use it in the very best way.

Sprouted sourdough almost seems redundant.  After all the process of culturing regular flour with the wild yeast innoculant renders the whole loaf already easier to digest, a true whole and fermented food.  Before reading about it, I never thought the result would be that much better but boy was I wrong!  The flavor is incredible; it's wheaty, earthy, and almost sweet.  It makes the best toast I've ever eaten.

sprouted wheat berries
sprouted wheat flour

The dough seems harder to work with, it's stickier (Reinhart advises oiling your hands, but I just used water and folded the dough in the bowl I mixed in rather than putting it on the counter each time) and more "relaxed" in feel than dough made with regular flour.  I didn't pay good attention to the time when I began and had to get up in the night to form my dough into a loaf - and then rather than set more nighttime alarms, I decided to cold proof it in the fridge until morning.  All of my variables and I was sure the bread wouldn't be anything to speak of, but like sourdough always does it surprised me with it's wonderfulness.

009 :: 02.04.15
Click the photo to read the baking notes.

Isn't that always the way?  The bread always changes the rules just when you think you know it all.  And there is always, always something more to learn.  I made this loaf alongside a whiter one, plain sourdough as I'm used to making.  The boys all wanted this one before the other and it really was that unique.  When toasted, it became brittle and almost graham like.  There is just the heel left, and I'm saving it for breakfast tomorrow with more marmalade.  I will eat it slowly and plot my next sprouted baking experience.

sprouted toast.
I still can't decide if I should make another batch of the kumquat & blood orange marmalade...

I seem to save the heels of bread to toast and eat myself, like I save up all the small moments in my day to day family life that one day I'll likely use to comfort and warm myself.  In another decade, my oldest boy will likely be out of the house and the growing baby boy will be almost a teenager.  I will be greyer and telling more tales of bread, hopefully still learning more and more about it. 

Butter Tortillas.

I'm sure you've heard we are once again living in the golden age of butter.  Butter makes everything better, and I can't tell you how liberating it is to just use it without the guilt of the low-fat '90's plaguing me.  My whole outlook on fat has obviously changed for the better over the past several  years, and strangely I not gained a single pound in the process (well, not counting the gains and loss of baby weight...).  While eating more fat, I have also never purchased less prepared food in my life: in part due to our economic status, but even more because whenever I read a label, I lose my appetite.

There are quite a few "convenience" foods that I haven't bought it ages and canned beans and tortillas top the list.  For years, I quietly made my own corn tortillas using Maseca and an aluminum tortilla press that someone gave me years ago.  I never made flour tortillas; my Mom always made them without a recipe, and hers were untouchable good.  Then two things happened.  My aluminum press broke, and Deena posted about some whole wheat flour tortillas that I tried and loved.  They were made with a ratio, not by feel and I could handle that.

I used her post as my only recipe for a long time, probably exclusively for about a year after my tortilla press bit the dust.  Then by chance, I was leafing through Peter Reinhart's Crust and Crumb - still one of my favorite bread books ever.  How had I never seen there was a tortilla recipe there?  How could a tortilla made with softened butter be bad?  I had to experiment.


Not only are these consistently good, I found that I could use virtually any flour and have them turn out wonderfully.  I've used all whole wheat and part whole wheat, high-protein bread flour, or spelt, or whatever I've had ground and needing to be used up.  I remember to take out some butter early in the day and by the time I'm ready to mix up the dough it's soft and ready to go.

Before being forced to master the flour tortilla, I never let my cast iron heat up long enough.  Awhile back, my Mom bought me a double burner cast iron comal when we were shopping at our favorite "junk shop".  It was like new, and took very little reseasoning to get it conditioned.  This allows me to make tortillas twice as fast.  A batch of 8 can be done in about 20 minutes if I let the iron heat for about 10 minutes before I'm ready to start griddling them.  And 20 minutes standing over my stove tending to the rest of the meal simultaneously makes me feel like the best kind of multitasker. 

I like to mix up the tortilla dough several hours before using it.  It seems to hydrate the dough - and somehow makes the whole process feel like less work.  Many times, I'll cook the tortillas before I even start the rest of the dinner - nestling them in blankets of tea towels to keep them warm and pliable.  I used to try to roll them too thin, now I aim for a slightly more substantial feel.  I'm also lucky to have a Roul'Pat for my counter, which lets me use less flour when rolling too.  I use that for all of my breadmaking as well, so I'd recommend it as a good investment if you do a lot of baking, or as a gift for someone you know who does.

I form the dough into balls, and then let them sit up to several hours until I'm ready to griddle them.

I find this makes the perfect amount for one meal with perhaps a few leftover depending on our appetites.  Double the recipe easily if you'd like more. They do hold well for a few days in the refrigerator, but then I like to steam them in some sort of creative stovetop contraption before serving them.  If toasted, they become nicely brittle: make them into homemade chips or tostada shells easily by baking them for 10 minutes or so at 350.

Flour Tortillas made with Butter (Peter Reinhart's ratio)
8 tortillas
  • 8 oz. (1 3/4 c.) bread flour (I like half whole wheat and half AP flour most of the time)
  • big pinch of salt
  • 2 oz. (half a stick or 1/4 c.) room temperature butter
  • 4 oz. (1/2 c.) warm water
Combine flour, salt, and butter in a large bowl and use your fingers to rub the butter into the flour until it is evenly coated and no large pieces of butter remain.  (I usually taste the dough to see if the salt is to my liking.)  Pour the warm water over and use your hand or a wooden spoon to form a rough dough.  Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead a few times to form into a smooth round ball.  (Because I like to let the dough sit for so long, I don't spend too much time kneading it as time is my ally in hydrating and developing the gluten.  If you are going to use the dough soon after making, knead for 2-3 minutes to form a better dough.)

Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, and roll each piece into a tight round.  Cover with a bowl (the same one used for mixing works) or plastic wrap to keep them from drying out.  Heat iron skillet over medium to medium-high for 10 minutes before cooking them (a drop of water should sizzle and evaporate quickly - you'll need to reduce the heat then because the cast iron retains heat so well).  Roll out each ball of dough to about an 8 inch circle using a bit of flour.  Try not to have an excess of flour as you transfer them to the pan or they can burn on the griddle.  Cook on the first side until large bubbles start to form, then flip and cook the on the opposite side.  Once browned, flip over if needed to finish cooking on the first side.  Meanwhile, you can roll your next tortilla and have it ready to go by the time the first one is finished cooking.

Stack the just cooked tortillas in a stack of tea towels to keep them warm.


So just why haven't I bought another tortilla press yet?  In part because flour tortillas are just so good.  I also really do not want to waste money on another cheaply made aluminum press.  I have my eye on this $75 beauty, but better I want to have my brother make one for me.  With wooden plates more than an inch thick, it won't warp and will always press a tortilla perfectly flat... not to mention it will be something I'll have forever.  I'm actually glad I don't have one yet because in the time frame since I've been missing it, Mexico went corn-GMO free - so the Maseca of the future will be better for all of us.

Necessity is the mother of invention, and in my case, the mother of mastery since I no longer am phobic of making sub-par flour tortillas.  They still aren't my Mom's, but they are very good and I can make them almost as fast as corn tortillas.  I generally make something involving the tortilla once a week, so this past year I might have made as many as 30 dozen tortillas, and I am now completely sold on them made with butter. 

Just this week I saw that America's Test Kitchen released a tortilla making video, not using butter but also using warm water.  Give it a look for some science behind that - and for another recipe to try.

On Rye. (Notes, not Recipes...)

I haven't given much thought to rye.  As a cereal grain, I suppose I like it well enough, but I'm fairly certain this was my first time baking it into a loaf - and it was a naturally leavened loaf at that.  The only rye product I had in the house to turn into rye flour for this recently baked experiment was rolled rye flakes I had gotten some time ago at my co-op, and I'm not sure if my finished bread was a direct result of less than optimum rye flour or not.  Either way, this bread was most delicious, and it piques my interest to work with this grain a bit more.

This is just an account of my first rye bread, baked with instruction from Peter Reinhart (who I'm sure will appreciate that I'm not writing down every one of his recipes from Crust and Crumb into my blog).  I did follow his ratios, and I built a rye starter in a single afternoon from my standard resident starter.  This added a day to the bread with an overnight rest in the fridge, but it was all just in wait time, not really active work time.  On his recommendation, I also added a tablespoon of cocoa powder and two teaspoons of instant espresso powder hoping for a deeper external coloring.  An exceptional tongue may be able to detect it, but I can't say I could.

pain au méteil

Pliny the Elder, the ancient Roman philosopher and naturalist who had a penchant for cookery, said that rye is "a very poor food and only serves to avert starvation" and spelt is mixed into it "to mitigate its bitter taste, and even then is most unpleasant to the stomach."  The three day building of this rye bread most definitely served to break down those parts of the rye plant destined to be indigestible.  And the greater wheat flour content tempers any would-be-overwhelming bitterness as well.

The French term this type of rye bread with more wheat than rye "pain au méteil", and the instruction in Peter Reinhart's Crust and Crumb called to bake it deep as possible without burning... but I couldn't bring myself to go much darker than this.  I am going to go on a rye mission, grinding coarse rye flour from rye berries and not rolled flakes of rye - and I'll bake the pain au seigle as well, which is the version that contains more rye than wheat.  I'm also going to try to bake on a stone, and burnish the crusts out with longer baking times.

ka back in action

I've happily been able to return to machine-kneaded doughs; my loving Dad fixed my not-so-old stand mixer by replacing gears and grease, when I was certain that my mixer was heading for a landfill .  I've had it back for two months already, and have been afraid to use it...  It works just great, and I hope that it will now withstand some workouts.  (Though, I'm overly careful, and unlikely to be baking any bagels any time soon.)


Rye flour contains far less gluten than wheat, but yet the dough seemed to reach the "windowpaning stage" faster than traditional, all-wheat breads I've made.  From the photo, you can see that the gluten hasn't quite developed at this stage.  Two minutes later, it stretched thin and without breaking into holes.  It was a lovely dough, and it felt good to have a traditionally kneaded dough in my kitchen after so many months of merely "folding" high-hydration doughs.  Even though (with kneaded doughs) I let my mixer do the bulk of the work to save my hands where I can, I never resist the pleasure of a minute or two of quality "counter time" with a dough!

I formed the dough into two loaves:  one round and one oblong.  I have a proper brotform for the round loaf, but improvised another small basket for use as an oval support.  The breads rose much more than I anticipated after they were formed, risen, and then retarded overnight.  The round loaf must have been better formed, since it didn't appear overproofed when I scored it.  The oblong loaf deflated and had an almost tough "skin" that made pretty patterns impossible.  I used Chad Robertson's 50-50 mix of rice and wheat flours to dust the bread cloths thoroughly, though I might not have needed a cloth at all in my brotform that is well-seasoned.

I brought them out of the fridge, and let them sit at room temp for about a half hour as the oven heated.  Unlike Reinhart, I baked them both in covered iron pots - the oblong one just barely squeaking in, thus its rather homely looking appearance.  I heated them to 500, then dropped the heat to 450 just after popping them in.  I uncovered them after 15 minutes, and baked about 20 minutes longer.

pain au méteil

But like their related Human Beings, no matter what they looked like, it was what was inside that mattered.  Gentle, small holes, with a slightly more regular pattern than the breads I've been used making lately.  The crust was thin, brittle, and easy to chew; the texture of a slice had enough resistance to be interesting without being boring.  I ate the heel, plain without adornment, amazed that wild yeast produces such amazements with such a little help from me.

pain au méteil

Returning to a well-loved bread book after so many months away felt unnaturally calming.  I remembered immediately why it is one of my favorites, and one that produces excellent results, even if my results are most definitely different than those described in black and white.

I ate this bread for lunch today, it's second day, sliced very thin and toasted, topped with super ripe avocado, fresh sliced San Marzano tomatoes, coarse salt and pepper and some arbequina olive oil I decided I had to try (and it was so good I'm glad I did).  I actually can't wait to taste this bread as it ages a few more days, I have a feeling that the flavor will only continue to develop.

I'm also very excited to get rye berries for flour.  While I'm at it, I may pick up some hard wheat berries and grind that for flour too - it may make for a denser loaf, but perhaps an appreciation for heavier Winter loaves in on the horizon...

Ain't it Funny how Time Slips Away...

I was a little too young for thirtysomething, but think of that term, pop culture, and my current age all the time recently. At some point, I became more the "I'm in my thirties" type, rather than a specific age, and I'm not sure when that happened or came to be. I'm also unsure how by magic I turned from child to parent, and how and when exactly my parents went from being my parents to also being my friends. I wonder all the time if the reason blogs are so prolific and interesting is because people my age, people who know what Snorks are, are hungry for the past, and for the first time they are fully aware of how lightening fast a lifetime will go.

A picture of my Gram hangs in my kitchen. It's a colorized photo of her smiling, sometime in the early 40's when she was a young girl. I must stare at that picture every single day for several minutes, wondering how that young girl became a strong, single parent and wondering how she worked so much and still had the time to make daily loaves of bread for her 5 children.

As often as my hands make their rhythm in the kitchen I think of hers and what they produced, and I think of her even more lately because of my skin ailments. I have inherited a lot of traits from her, and my sensitivity to my environment is just one of them. As I've nursed my swollen, horrible hands this week, I've thought of how continually thankful she was for everything, and how no one ever heard her complain about physical pain. I unfortunately did not inherit that quiet demeanor, but in a way, I feel like the way she handled difficulties in life inspires me to want to be strong in the same way. To be gracious and appreciative of every moment rather than sour and downhearted when I can't do what I'd like due to physical constraints.

barely sprouted wheat berries

Working entirely encased in foodservice gloves, I kneaded my way around a loaf of sprouted wheat bread yesterday. I haven't really been doing too much in my kitchen, and it makes me feel lost and unneeded. I read through the rest of Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads book, and felt only enough gonzo to sprout some hard wheat berries to make a 100% sprouted bread. I knew when I only let the wheat berries soak for about 16 hours and not properly "sprout" that I may be setting myself up for a dense loaf, but I was impatient both for sprouted bread and the feeling of empowerment that making bread gives me. And, Peter did say that soaking the grain overnight, draining and then waiting just a few hours should afford the grain enough time to sport tiny tails - and if you ask me it does look like my grain had a hint of tails.

This is a straight-dough method, commercial yeast bread with no added flour. The dough is made by grinding newly sprouted grain into a paste - something that caused my first ever VitaMix overheating. This is some heavy duty dough! I don't have a meat grinder, but I can borrow one from my Mom, and I think I will when I decide to try this bread again. Not that I was entirely unhappy with my dense result.

sprouted wheat bread, unbakedsprouted wheat bread

My childhood was such an amazing time, and I'm lucky to have so many food memories that I wouldn't know where to start. When this loaf came out of the oven at 1 1/2 lbs. of dense, near-brick stature, I immediately thought of my Eastern-European roots and the near black Baltic Rye bread that my great aunt used to migrate up from Chicago on summertime visits. That bread seemed to keep forever, and I remember eating it sliced wafer thin at my Great-Grandma's, my Gram's and at our own house. Stored in plastic and in the refrigerator, this was a tangy, rich bread that you would eat with cheese or finely sliced, cured meat and that is exactly what texture my bread took on. It may be that I didn't let it rise enough, didn't provide the dough a thorough kneading, was too quick to grind my sprouted wheat, or didn't grind it smooth enough... but all of the mistakes coupled with painful hands made a loaf of bread I'll enjoy every slice of myself.

sprouted wheat bread, sliced 2
it's toothsome.

I'm keeping it in plastic and in the fridge, and I'm able to slice it at a mere 1/4 inch or thinner with a chef's knife, and it makes me long for Summer Sausage which seemed to be a rare treat we gobbled up when I was a kid. At the time, I thought we could only get Summer Sausage in the Summer, and maybe we only did when big city relatives were visiting and mosquitoes were biting, and we all spent so much time together that it makes for stellar memories as a certain someone is approaching the other side of 35.

sprouted wheat bread, sliced

When I was growing up, old people seemed different than the older people I know now - I'll bet they will seem really different than the people I'll likely know when I'm officially old myself. Maybe nobody I know, including me, will retire Cocoon-style to Florida. Maybe the senior housing of the 2050's will be rocking out to Pearl Jam and Pantera and nostalgia t.v. networks will be long running marathons of the A-Team, Airwolf, and Simon and Simon. I guess time will tell, and hopefully I'll be healthy enough to avoid both assisted living and the pitfalls of too much television...

Meanwhile, I'm storing up new memories and trying desperately to be happy with these flawed hands that prevent me from working in the dirt, kneading the dough as I'd like. I'm trying to be comfortable with my increasing age for the first time in my life, trying to embrace the multiplying numbers of long silver hair that seem so noticeable to me but strangely to no one else. And if I feel like singing out loud in the middle of the day, I have made the time and space in my kitchen comfortable enough to do so. I will love the things I love now as much no matter my age and ability, and I pray that I'll just be able to keep the time from running through my (hopefully healing) fingers too quickly.

One Year of Real Bread.

It's hard for me to believe that it has now been an entire year since I grew my sourdough culture. I thought of this since my Parents came to visit me this week, bringing with them grapes, tomatoes, and pumpkins for me to play with. When we first moved as a family to the farm in 1988, we were excited to have a variety of already established, old-timey things like apples, grapes, and raspberries right in our yard. Grapes in particular were exciting to us, since they can't really thrive up north where we had come from. We had both wild grapes and Concords, and my Mom has canned grape juice and grape jelly pretty much every year since. I was busy most of the day today with grapes, and will likely talk about them at length later, but smelling that deep purple of them just reinforced my love of bread - how grapes remind me now of the symbiotic relationship between wild yeast and fruit, fermentation and bread.

While I have always had a deep love for all things carbohydrate, and have never been shy of yeast bakery, I never would have dreamed that it was possible for me, amateur home baker, to turn out wild, natural leaven breads one at a time with relative ease. Those grapes that assisted me on my favorite fermentation adventure ever are a continual reminder of the relationship between the baker and the ingredient, and the realization that what comes from my hands is really maybe only half skill and the other half a credit to the powers of the unseen world. No wonder bread has such mystical and spiritual connotation - the more I make it the more I am solidly convinced in the power of the Almighty.

While I have written many posts on bread and my experiments with it, I wrote them all with the passion of new discovery. As I have worked my way through different books, different methods, various ratios and flours, I have found little tips with each loaf. Having baked through an entire year with wild yeast, I can say (from my personal experience, anyway) that Summer bread is tough to master. Now that the air is thinner, crisp with impending Autumn, my excitement for bread making is again in full swing - the past three or four loaves in particular knocking my proverbial socks right off.

firm starter, just out of the fridge.

I am still using the ratios in Peter Reinhart's book Crust and Crumb, and yes, I am still available if he'd like me to personally go door to door and promote it. All Summer, I had been making his recipe for Country Style Levain (which a few other loaves interspersed in there too). Generally, it was good. Big, airy holes and a nice round sour flavor, sometimes it felt a little wet in the middle... but I chalked it up to a "custardy interior" and ate almost all of it regardless of the varying degrees of perfection.

But a week or so ago, I went back to his slightly different "San Francisco" Sourdough, and I am newly smitten, as if I had never had such success with bread before. Both aforementioned breads use a base Peter calls a Firm Starter. The build begins with the firm starter a day or two prior to mixing up bread, and the firm starter remains viable for about 3 days in the fridge (longer if you refresh it with additional water and flour). I'm not quite sure if it is a combination of the weather, the hint of malt extract, or my decision to autolyse my loaves, but these breads have been so great they deserve their own billboard. The crumb is tight, absent of airy holes, but still with a bit of that wet custard feel. The crust is particularly amazing: crisp and caramel-y, making a proper mess of my floor when I go to slice into it. It's the best of all bread worlds, at least for now.

it windowpanes like nobody's business...

I have made this recipe before, though the results were not mind-boggling, and hence I had moved on to the Country Levain. Why it has decided to work for me now, I am not sure. I am beyond excited that for the first time ever, I have been able to use a well-floured brotform without having the loaf stick at all. The loaf does not deflate when I gingerly tip it over, even though each time I fully expect it to. I invert it onto the counter, then slash and move it to my preheated cast-iron pot, and it stays proudly puffed, living and breathing like I remember Nancy Silverton referring to it doing - and I never understood what she meant until now.

Since I usually have 100% hydration starter in largish amounts, because the firm starter lasts a few days in the fridge, and because I like using the firm starter in things besides bread (like this pizza dough), I usually mix up a larger batch of it. I'm still working on the optimum feeding schedule for my starter(s)... since I don't keep my main (100% hydration) starter in the refrigerator unless I absolutely have to, I feed it every day which sometimes can feel a tad wasteful. The build time for this bread can be shortened, and flavor sacrifice is minimal, so go ahead and bake it if you need bread!

Maybe I'm not really a true bread baker since I let my KitchenAid do my mixing. Had I the resources of a sturdy wood bench, I would likely do the hand kneading since I probably do need the exercise. You can make this bread by hand, just make sure to knead it until the gluten develops enough that you can spread a thin windowpane without tearing, and you'll be fine. This loaf is a good size for a standard 5 quart cast iron pot, which is how I prefer to bake to get a good crust. You can use a different baking method, and then form other bread shapes.

"Wisconsin" Sourdough (adapted for volume and method from Peter Reinhart)

For the Firm Starter:
  • 1 c. 100% hydration starter
  • 1 c. bread flour
  • enough water to make it form into a ball - a few tablespoons
To make the Firm Starter: mix the starter ingredients in a mixing bowl. When they form a ball, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead just until all the ingredients are incorporated, and dough forms a smooth ball. Place dough in a clean bowl, cover, and let ferment at room temperature for 4 hours. Then transfer to the fridge overnight or about 8 hours. The firm starter will be active for about 3 days. (If you leave it longer and need to refresh it, add 1 c. flour and 1/3 c. water or as much water to bring it back to roughly the same consistency. You can easily double the ingredients to allow for additional firm starter.)

For the Bread:
  • 9 1/3 oz. firm starter, taken out of the fridge at least 1 hour before you want to use it
  • 10 oz. bread flour
  • 1/2 t. barley malt extract
  • 6 oz. water
  • heaping t. salt
Take the firm starter, break it into pieces, and combine it with everything else *Except Salt* in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook or, if working by hand, in a bowl. When it just comes together into a ball, cover the mixer with a towel, and let it rest for 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the salt over the top, and start the mixer. Knead for 8-10 minutes, until a golf ball size piece of dough will pass the windowpane test. (The dough is a little sticky, just drop it into the flour bin before trying to pass the test.) Transfer the dough to a lightly floured board, and give it a couple of kneads by hand to form it into a nice ball, then put it in a clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, or a plastic bag, and let rise at room temperature for 4 hours. It should show "signs of swelling", it doesn't need to truly double in size. If it seems to be rising faster due to a warmer room temperature, still let it ferment for the full 4 hours.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured board, and shape into a round loaf. (Try to "pull" the dough tightly, so that it forms a nice, compact ball. Pinch the bottom seams together if need be. It shouldn't spread out on you after you've formed a tight ball, that "skin" is what prevents the loaf from growing into a less desirable and larger shape.)

Lightly dust the loaf with flour, and place it in a floured brotform or circular colander lined with a linen towel that has been rubbed with flour. (Be sure that you have the smooth size facing down, and the crimped bottom side facing up.) Place the formed loaf in a plastic bag and let it ferment at room temperature for 3-4 hours, until about 1 1/2 times it's original size.

(You can now bake it... or let it sit overnight in the fridge well wrapped in the plastic bag. I've left it in the fridge for as long as 16 hours, and it still baked up fine.)

Remove the loaf from the fridge 1 hour before baking. Preheat the oven to 475 with a lidded cast iron pot inside. Carefully tip the loaf out onto a lightly floured surface and slash the top.

Transfer to the cast iron pot, and bake with the lid on for 30 minutes. Remove the lid, and continue to bake 10-15 minutes longer, until the crust has the color you like.

Let cool for at least an hour before cutting into it...

hot bread.

More than any other bread I've made, this one really "sings". Singing bread is the ultimate reward and one you can quiet your 5-year-old son with; it is the reaction of the hot loaf hitting the cooler room temperature air, the process of the exterior cooling and contracting. The fissures it creates in the loaf are pretty interesting, the cracks appearing in this particular bread are deeper than any other I've made. And like I said earlier, I can't be sure if I can take credit for any of it.

cool bread.

Sometimes I feel guilty that I can enjoy wheat. When I run into more and more people with gluten allergies, I really feel a particular sadness that I can't share this kind of bread epiphany with someone. When I stand proud over a cooling bread, when I try to identify that wheaty, toasty smell and can't find the proper word, when I can't stand it any longer, and cut the crusty end off the loaf to eat before dinner... I really remember to appreciate this ancient thing that no longer seems unattainable to me. I enjoy every single bite. I still have so much to learn, but now I feel empowered with competence: a year of wild yeast under my belt, and the world is my oyster.

This post has been YeastSpotted.