Artisan bread making for a beginner

The smell of onion flakes, sour dough, caraway, black poppy and sesame seed is in the air….the darn stuff smells so good.

I am on a bread making kick (again).

For years my go-to recipe was a rye bread recipe my grandma taught me before she died.  She was one of those 5 loaves a week/ measure by feel/ use real lard /old school/ came from Germany when she was 19 kind of bakers.    I can still  see those loaves of rye bread cooling on her kitchen table.

The art of bread making is beginning to make just a little more sense this week.

There is definitely a learning curve.

I am interested in the big picture.

I want to know theory, not just be a slave to specific recipes.

I approach bread making the same way Vince Lombardi approached coaching football.

Start from the beginning.

Focus on the fundamentals.

“Mix some flour with enough water to form a dough, a touch of salt perhaps; shape it, bake it, the result is bread in it’s simplest, most fundamental form:

coarse, crusty

with rich true-spirited flavor

that one soon learns to love and crave.

       Everything else is extra; yeast, milk, oil, sweetening, eggs.  Extra to make bread more palatable, more “civilized”. more chewable and sliceable; yet in a way the extras only detract from the primitive simplicity of grain-tasting unyeasted bread.

The range of breads and other bakery goods is extra-ordinary, from the simplest flour-salt-water to the fanciest butter-eggs-milk-yeasted pastry…Yet basically it’s just you and the dough- ripening, maturing, baking, blossoming together.

from the Introduction to The Tassajara Bread Book


I’ve discovered the past several years,  an inner impulse  awakens inside of me  each fall to putter in the kitchen.   I’m secure enough in my masculinity to write about it.  For me, the kitchen is nothing more than a giant laboratory.  Cook books are no different than the blue prints I use to build a  house.  This impulse  tends to goes dormant once the weather warms up.  But come September, I start thinking about canning,  baking bread,   smoking meat,  butchering…

Ten years ago when I first started blogging, I became friends with a young woman who was a lawyer by day.  Found out she and I shared several interests besides blogging. She told me she had a single aunt she greatly admired who lived in the country at the end of a dirt road down in Missouri.  Aunt hunted,  chopped wood,  knew all of those self sufficient skills previous generations took for granted.   My young lawyer friend decided to come and pay us a visit.  Before she left,  she gifted me her personal copy of  The Tassajara Bread Book which I have been rereading this week.

My favorite memory of her visit was watching her shoot a pistol grip 12 gauge shot-gun multiple times in a row.   (I wanted to make sure she had a chance to make some lasting memories and connect with her country roots.) 😉

Just went and checked on my latest creation.

Bread is done:

Attempt #6 of sourdough rye bread

Thinking about my lawyer friend  made me think about that song by Hank Williams….Country Boy Can Survive  again, so I’ll tack that on at the end.

Any bread makers out there in the audience?

Any tips for someone just starting out?

Care to share a favorite recipe?

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10 Responses to Artisan bread making for a beginner

  1. Can you post the recipe you used please? Would love to try it.

  2. Deb says:

    Such a personal weakness for me Doug, warm bread fresh from the oven. I love a good hearty, crusty loaf cut into thick slices with generous amounts of butter. My hands don’t seem to be up to the challenge of mixing and kneading anymore.
    My son began baking years ago, probably just out of college, maybe even prior to graduation, but definitely when he and his now wife began living together. He was never afraid to try all sorts of recipes and has continued to bake still. I like to believe he inherited his interest and skill from his great-grandmother who I have written about on my blog.

    • DM says:

      Love it! that encourages me your son is not afraid of working in the kitchen. Yep, it is definitely a snare for me (fresh baked things smothered in butter) I have to really be careful, because in the name of research, I have been tasting several calorie laden goodies this week..It will come back to bite me if I’m not careful.

  3. emjayandthem says:

    Loved this and I love your adventurous spirit in the kitchen and elsewhere – that’s what makes cooking fun! (I feel the same, it’s like one giant laboratory and the science geek in me joyfully dances).

    Mom taught me to make bread ~ I’ve made hers and it’s wonderful. But I cut out grains several years ago for health/inflammation reasons. Your rye bread looks divine and I’ll bet it makes a fabulous toast. And if I were at your farm table, sipping coffee and chatting, you know I’d have some 🙂

    Cheers & enjoy!

    • DM says:

      Made another loaf this morning. I was up a little after 4 ..(attempt numero 7) It’s a gift to a FB friend who saw the picture and said rye bread is her favorite bread. How could I not reward that. 🙂

  4. Becky says:

    I don’t have a favourite bread recipe, but I do know that kneading, if the recipe asks for it, must be done for a full 10 minutes. I watch the numbers tick by on the digital clock on the stove, and wish it was over! But it makes all the difference in the world to the final bread.

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