Friday, August 21, 2009


Amy wrote about making bread the other day and I was reminded of the Holy Grail of bread that I have been chasing ever since I started making bread.

As many of you know, when I was a lad I would go up to a lake in Canada every summer. The place where I lived was rustic. The family I stayed with had a small farm and nearly everything we ate was grown there, animals included.

Emma, the matriarch of the family did all the cooking and baking. She baked bread every day and I have yet to find a bread as good. All of my attempts at baking her bread always fail miserably. I even drove up to Canada once to ask her if I could watch her make bread. She did nothing out of the ordinary other than using potato water where the recipe called for water. There was nothing remarkable about the recipe at all.

Her bread had a sturdy crust all around, but the bread under the crust was the amazing part. It was very light in weight. The gluten was stretched to the maximum it could possibly be stretched. The walls of the bread bubbles were like dragon fly wings. One could nearly see through a slice and it’s cellophane like structure.

Nothing was uniform in this bread. The bubbles in bread are basically a product of yeast farts. The yeast consumes the sugar and then it releases gas. If you take normal slice of bread and count the bubbles or craters in a square inch you may be able to count hundreds, but a square inch of Emma’s bread would only have ten at the most. This bread was light and airy.

If any of you are bread experts out there and can guide a fellow, please pipe in and let me know what I can do to recapture this sort of bread.


Blogger a mouthy irish woman? ridiculous! said...

i've been doing a whole bunch of bread baking lately.....feels good and tastes better.

5:49 AM  
Blogger weese said...

one winter quite some time ago, my wife decided she wanted to bake bread.
over and over me and kids smiled through tasting heavy, thick, doughy, crunchy, even close to solid bread.
we slathered it with lots and lots of butter and kept encouraging her as long as we could.
we finally bought her a bread machine.

6:31 AM  
Blogger Auntie said...

"Emma" and her sturdy bread.

Sounds like "pennies" material for another article......LOL

Crap, now I wanna go make bread today.

7:11 AM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

My only guess is that it was in the mixing/kneading process that she did something different. Or maybe I'm just not awake enough. But all I can think about now is fresh bread. Thanks a million!

7:41 AM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Irish, watch your carbs.

Weese, those bread bricks usually make good French Toast.

Auntie, Emma was grandmotherly. Last I heard she is in a care center with advanced Alzheimers.

Darev, nothing says lovin like something from the oven.

8:06 AM  
Blogger Beth said...

Ashamed to admit I do not bake my own bread but when at the lake, I do know where every wonderful bakery exists and frequent them all!

8:53 AM  
Blogger Diela said...

Since you said everything was grown on the farm, I'd be willing to bet she must grind her own flour, or there's something equally unusual about the flour. That can really make a difference.

The potato starch in the water will lighten up the texture a bit, but texture you're talking about also requires a high-gluten flour.

If you want a real expert opinion, (not just me, hah) check with the folks over at They have a huge recipe area, and are really enthusiastic about answering questions.

9:31 AM  
Blogger weese said...

oo great tip, guy!
she has been thinking of trying it again soon.
looks like i will be having much french toast this winter.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Amy said...

You have no idea how longingly I stare at the bread my diet doesn't allow me to have.


Get this....I made those two loaves of bread, and my 10 yr old comes up to me and says 'Yeah, but where's the REAL bread?"

Oh. my. gawd.

11:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

let it raise 2 times punching and kneading it throughly betwixt each rise. Let it rise once more in the pan and bake till it smells like heaven.

11:23 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Beth, I commend you for that admission.

Diela, That is worth perusing. I'll keep all posted.

Amy, it is your duty to educate him.

Anon, so you are saying three rises. Those little yeasties have to fart a lot to get three rises out of it.

3:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well you got to get those little yeasties off to a good start, and always tear the dough never cut it. Thats what mom always says.

8:14 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Off to a good start by adding more sugar? I never cut dough or lettuce.

7:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well dissolved honey in 115 degree water.

8:48 AM  
Anonymous KathleenM said...

Hike out your kitchenaid.

Kathleen's Cottage Bread

In the work bowl goes:

4 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt (yep, that much, it helps retard the rise, and adds flavor)
1 tablespoon baking yeast
Mix this well manually, then add

just shy of 2 cups lukewarm, or just under, water.

Mix well again manually. This dough will probably be wetter than you normally are used to.

Use the dough hook on your kitchenaid, and mix on low for 10 minutes.

Pour few tablespoons of olive oil over the top, form your dough into a ball, now well covered with oil, replace into the work bowl if you have taken it out, cover the work bowl with cling film, then let double in bulk. If you do this in the fridge it might take hours. This can be a good thing. A long slow rise and a wet dough will tend to produce the texture you are looking for. If in a sort of hurry, don't do it in the fridge. When doubled, divide in half on a lightly floured work surface and gently form your loaves. I would suggest reading some of the bread bloggers instructions for this as there are so many ways to do it. I just make standard loaves in ceramic loaf pans. Let rise again till about double in bulk, bake at 400 F for nearly an hour. Take out, cool on racks. If too crispy a crust for your liking, brush with butter when it comes out of the oven and keep in a plastic bag when it cools (if you have any left!)

Try it. You can compose blog posts while you wait for the dough to rise.

7:12 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Anon, how much honey?

Kathleen, is this your favorite recipe or is this one that will get me that fluffy bread with a hard crust?

5:26 AM  
Anonymous KathleenM said...

good crumb. crisp crust. give it a whirl.

9:51 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Thanks, I'll try it this weekend.

5:57 AM  

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