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Josey Baker Bread

Share in the Loave

Bread is one of my favourite things to eat.  But the process of baking it is a bit mysterious – rising and kneading and proofing and all that.  If you are interested in learning how to do it, and you appreciate an analytical approach to learning a new skill, this is a good book for you.  

Josey Baker (his real name) is the owner of a successful bread bakery in San Francisco.  This book is a great example of the yin-yang blend of art and science that is breadmaking.  I was not surprised to discover that Josey Baker is a former science teacher.  His scientific knowledge and teaching skills shine in this book.  

The book takes a step by step approach, starting with a series of eight lessons on a basic loaf.  Each lesson builds on the last. The finale is a hearth loaf cooked on a pizza stone resulting in a round bread with a crusty exterior and a soft interior.  There are variations on the basic loaf with nuts, seeds, cheese and dried fruit and grains such as 100% whole wheat, rye and kamut.  I loved the “pocketbreads”, mini-breads baked in muffin tins with some great flavours including fig and fennel, cinnamon date, cheddar and chive and chocolate cherry.  The book also contains some delicious-sounding recipes for pizzas and baked goods.

I did not have the patience for eight different loaves so I started with lesson two and skipped ahead to the last one.  I read all the lessons carefully though.  My first bread was so-so, my second pretty good.  Many of the recipes are for sourdough (very San Francisco) which I did not realize was a replacement for yeast.  My sourdough starter was a science experiment gone wrong but – here is a tip – yeast can be used instead of sourdough starter in all of the recipes.  

My Black Pepper Parmesan bread was a winner, strong peppery flavour with savoury cheese.  I would add more cheese next time (I am suspicious of the gorgeous picture of bread oozing cheese).  My version of 100% whole wheat cranberry walnut was dense but had great flavour.  I will try that again.  

The Dark Mountain Rye resulted in a crusty exterior but mushy insides – no good.  My favourite was Chocolate Peanut Butter Pocketbreads.  The bread was fluffy, the outside was crisp and there were gooey pockets of chocolate and peanut butter.  Somehow not too sweet; a must-try.  

Bread baking does take planning but it was not too onerous (and there are tips about timing).  I feel like I accomplished something and was pleased with the result.  If you’re interested, this is a great place to start.  Recommended?  Yes, for all aspiring home bread bakers.