Can you say hallelujah! I have spent too many years to count trying to conquer Artisan bread baking at home. It all started when my husband, Ed, said he really missed the bread he bought every day in Athens Greece while he was stationed there for the Air Force. This was before the revolution in Artisan Bread Baking reached the United States. I was curious so I started researching European Artisan Breads and the rest is history. I have been on a crusade ever since for the perfect loaf of bread!
My family knows how long I’ve been at it because they have happily eaten every loaf, most of which I called a failure. My bread was definitely edible and disappeared fast since they always preferred my loaves to store-bought bread. But, I continued to hold out for one of the loaves pictured in the colorful bread baking books; a loaf with a crisp outer crust, an interior crumb with large irregular holes, and a subtle but distinctive taste. If you ask my husband, Ed, I’ve finally got it…a perfect loaf of bread!
I am hesitant to post the recipe here because I don’t want you to be disappointed when you don’t get the same results. Let me explain. For years, I followed every promising recipe I could find with exacting precision. But I was disappointed every time because I only got OK bread. Trust me it was better than store-bought but not quite up to what I imagined. I used to think that making great bread was only about exactly following the recipe. Boy was I wrong! It wasn’t until a few years ago that I discovered artisan bread baking is not about finding the perfect recipe. I swore there was black magic involved!
Artisan bakers take only a few basic ingredients; flour, water, salt, yeast and turn them into this amazingly good tasting food. They do use recipes or formulas, and follow procedures and timelines but they also have learned to adjust their process for changes in environment, yeast, and dough conditions. So even at home you must stay aware of your kitchen temperature, observe the yeast’s behavior and be able to judge the feel of the dough to get great results. It sounds complicated but it’s really not. I plan to share this recipe and post my lessons learned under Bread Baking Tips and Tricks in a few days so you can benefit from some of my experiences.
But I have to warn you, Artisan Bread Baking can be addictive! Once you get hooked you cannot stop striving for the ultimate…The Holy Grail of Bread. Once your family tastes your bread, even the just OK loaves you better be ready to do it again because they come to expect it. Since I found this process and produced these amazing loaves, my husband has eaten almost a whole loaf in one day, and he is lingering around the kitchen like a cat waiting for his next meal!