I like bread, and this year I’m going to prove it by baking through The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Yes, I know I’m mildly crazy, thanks.
Just over a year ago, I was the new owner of Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, a critically acclaimed bread bible for home bakers and professionals alike. I’d asked for it for Christmas, and at last, it was mine. I really enjoyed bread class in pastry school, and now I could continue learning about the magic of bread making in my own kitchen. As far as pastry nerd enthusiasm goes, I was stoked.
In fact, I was so stoked that one of my 2016 Baking Resolutions was to bake more bread, but like so many resolutions, my early enthusiasm fizzled out. And by “fizzled out,” I mean I did not make a single loaf of bread last year. I did, however, manage to create the Perfect Pie Crust, the one and only resolution I accomplished last year.
I’ve learned from my mistakes, and I’m ready for a do over.
This year I’ve narrowed down my resolutions from three to one, because I obviously can’t be given too much responsibility. I’ve also made my resolution less general than “bake more bread.” I mean, what is that? It sounds as promising as “eat healthier.” Yeah, we say it, but do we actually do it? Never. Literally never.
I can’t be held accountable to such loose terms, so I’m going specific.
I want to bake my way through The Bread Baker’s Apprentice before the year ends.
Here’s how it’ll work—Okay, I’m not exactly sure how it will work. The book has just under 50 recipes, not counting its many, many variations. In a perfect world, I would bake a recipe a week, right? Not so fast.
Before you even get to Reinhart’s first full recipe there are 108 pages of theory on bread making. He covers everything from the difference between cake flour vs. semolina flour to calculating baker’s percentages. Half of the time I want to skip all the explanation and jump straight to baking. The other half of the time I think I must read every word of this in stunning detail to soak up as much knowledge as possible. As of now, I’m aiming to starting baking in early February.
But before the baking even starts, I need to confess one thing. Not every recipe is going to be perfect… or even great. I’m not talking about the recipe itself, Reinhart is a gluten-god, but my execution of the recipe may not always be so god-like. I haven’t baked bread regularly for over two years, and even then it was in professional ovens under professional supervision.
This idea is hardly the first of its kind, but I wanted a clear way to dip my toes back into bread baking. I remember really enjoying it in school, and, more recently, I remember really enjoying eating some focaccia. This is more about challenging myself through something I enjoy, and the bonus is that I’ll learn a lot. Okay, the real bonus is that my place is going to smell like freshly baked bread for all of 2017.
I don’t want to get too ahead of myself, but it’s safe to say that I am stoked.