09 February 2009

How can you tell good bread?

The sound. If you've watched Ratatouille, you'll know exactly what line I'm talking about. It's the one where Collette is schooling Linguine on the fundamentals of good cooking. If you haven't seen the film, let me explain. When looking for good bread, you don't go by the look, you go by the sound. Mind you, the bakery won't be too keen on you palming all the loaves, so I'm not saying that you do this in the store to all the loaves, but when you do come across a loaf from a bakery that people rave about, hold it up to your ear, and press on the crust with your hands.

It should crackle, and sound something like a cross between crumpling paper and the sizzle of a thick slice of bread on a nice hot skillet, when you fry it up for croutons. The bread should also sound hollow when thumped with your knuckles, and should spring back resiliently when you do give it a press. If the bread doesn't bounce back, you're dealing with bad bread.

Well, my friend Chuck picked up the Bread book, and has been loving it.

He tells us more on his blog.

The book is called Bread. With something that solid, you don't need more fancy titles. Like Chuck said:
I could tell that the generic stuff they offered was differing radically from what I was used to. They combine yeast & water with flour using a sponge, which I hadn't done before. It also asked for much longer rising times, longer cooking times, and higher temperatures, as well as other things, like sustaining steam in the oven to crisp the crust. Figuring that I might as well give it a shot, I went ahead, half afraid that I'd turn out a burnt loaf of bread right?

Negative, Roger Wilco. This bread is out of this world.
Couldn't have said it better myself. The point is that when you can see that you've been doing even the fundamentals incorrectly (all these years), you now know that there is a technique—a magic—to making the perfect bread. Get the book from your library, or snag it on the internet. Whatever you do, make bread happen.