Friday, May 4, 2012

Artisanal Baking In Little Steps

My cooking skills grow in quantized ways - many months go by as I re-visit old recipes, then suddenly I find a book that takes hold of me and a new journey begins.  In theory, any well written or popular book should serve this purpose, but life doesn't really seem to work that way.  It is a matter of chance which book I happen to lay my hands on and it also depends on how receptive I am at the time.  I like to think of it as serendipity.

My introduction to proper baking began with a book of recipes of American master bakers that was compiled by Julia Child ('Baking with Julia').  I bought this on impulse, on my last day of a visit to the U.S. nine years ago.  On returning to India, I read it carefully and began experimenting with hand made breads, pastry and fancy cakes.  Some months later I discovered 'The Art of Viennese Pastry' (by Marcia Colman Morton) lying on a shelf, gathering dust in a second hand Bangalore bookstore.  These two books opened up a world of baking (far removed from the baking soda and bread machine days) that I didn't know existed.  A world of vigorously beaten egg whites, delicately folded batters, finely sifted vanilla sugar, perfectly whipped cream and finally, of assembling wondrous edible creations using these.

Now, a second phase has begun with my discovery of new ways of making bread. I first caught sight of the book 'Tartine Bread' (by Chad Robertson) at a book sale last year.  It made me think about traditional ways of bread making and all the flavours and textures that are no longer available to us as we transition to eating quick made breads.  It introduced me to the concept of using a dutch oven to make crusty, free formed loaves with a flavour and texture reminiscent of traditional French country loaves (not that I have tasted any, but then neither had I tasted Viennese pastries).  As I was ordering my dutch oven through Amazon, I recalled a book I had heard about - 'Artisan Breads Everyday' (by Peter Reinhart) which I decided to order as well.  This has been another wonderful pair of books that has led me down the artisanal alley of breads.  It's a nice little path - cobbled, strewn with wild herbs and strange, beautiful creations.  Shafts of sun, intriguing smells and sounds beckon me on.

It's an enjoyable, meandering walk.  Some of my attempts along the way are shown below.

No comments:

#Header1_headerimg { margin: 0px auto }