Cooking Adventures: Fresh, Deliciously Crusty Bread! (aka My New Love)

What’s better than a fresh loaf of bread?

Lately, I’ve been lamenting the fact that St. Louis has almost not bakeries to be seen. It’s pretty hard to find the perfect loaf of crusty, artisan bread. So, I’ve given myself the duty to correct this injustice. That’s right, I made bread. Not just any bread, but multigrain bread full of nutritious grains like millet, flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds.L1031120.jpg

You know what my favorite part of bread is? The crust. It’s literally the best part of freshly baked bread (and not just because it’s my nickname). Without the crispy, crackling crust, there would be no depth of texture, of taste. Collete from the Disney’s Ratatouille sums it up perfectly:

“How can you tell how good bread is without testing it? Not the smell, not the look, but the sound of the crust. Listen. [bread crackles] Oh, symphony of crackle. Only great bread sound this way.” 

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My favorite part of the movie

Why did I bake my own bread?

Starting this year, I’ve resolved to stop buying pre-sliced bread. First of all, it’s not fresh. Second, there’s a bunch of preservatives in there, yet all you really need to make a basic loaf is flour, water, and yeast. Plus, baking your own bread is a small miracle in itself: a transformation of three basic ingredients into something wonderful. 

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After the second proofing

Plus, nothing comes close to that crunch when you take the first bite. When I baked the bread, a warm yeasty smell enveloped my friends and I into a warm hug. I could barely contain myself, hopping around the kitchen like a six-year-old on Christmas morning. After what felt like much longer than 30 minutes, it was done. When I tapped the bottom of my lovely loaf, a satisfying hollow thump resounded. Hurrah! My first loaf of bread, a success.

My masterpiece

My masterpiece

Another picture for good measure

Another picture for good measure

I can’t believe I made bread on my first try! I was so happy, I could barely contain it. My emotions can basically be summed up in the two pictures below: 

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After a quick snapshot of me and my bread,  it was time to dig in. We ate it with some delicious salted butter (Kerrygold is pretty good!) and ricotta and honey. Best. Afternoon. Snack. Ever. 

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no knead bread vs. David Lebovit’z Multigrain bread

I had initially planned to make the No Knead Bread that every blogger raves about. Or I guess more like raved about; it’s been almost 8 years since that blogosphere revelation. But, the recipe seems simple. A little…too simple. Flour + instant yeast + water = wonderfully delicious bread. No kneading necessary.

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David Lebovitz’s article convinced me otherwise. To him, the flavor came off a little flat. God forbid my first loaf ever was to be flatI needed a recipe with more depth, texture and flavor. I needed that satisfying crunch when I bite in. A recipe that I, coincidentally, found in his lovely book, My Paris Kitchen, which also happens to be my first cookbook. I bought this book on Amazon over Christmas break when I randomly fell in love with the idea of moving to Paris and going to culinary school à la Julia Child.

Well, that didn’t pan out. But my love for cooking certainly has not diminished. A warning: this recipe is not the easiest one out there. There’s some kneading involved. Okay, a lot of kneading. I’ve heard that kneading dough can be therapeutic, but for me it was more of a work out than anything else. Or maybe I’m just really out of shape…But it was totally worth it! I find so much more pleasure in eating something that takes time and effort to make. 

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You can find the recipe here. The one thing you’ll really need that you might not have is a dutch oven. If you don’t have one, it’s time to invest in one! Trust me, I only have 3 months of school left and I still succumbed to buying one.