Time flies. As I write this, a decade has passed since Flour Water Salt Yeast
was first published in 2012. That book helped home bakers craft round, crusty Dutch-oven loaves of a similar quality to what you can find at a very good artisan bakery. I explained the methods that we use at my bakery in Portland, Oregon, and I adapted them for use in home kitchens. First-time home bakers using Flour Water Salt Yeast
routinely shared triumphant photos of the bread coming out of their own ovens. The book has many solid foundational recipes, an instructional chapter that explains the details that go into making artisan bread at home (e.g., think of time and temperature as ingredients), and then a detailed essay titled “Making a Bread (or Pizza) Dough You Can Call Your Own.” The versatility of Flour Water Salt Yeast
is in the template that each recipe provides; use whatever blend of flour you want. I figured that was it, you had all the tools now, nothing more for me to say. I didn’t think I had a future bread book in me.
Times change! We make a bread at Ken’s Artisan Bakery called pain rustique. Unlike our rustic country breads, the pain rustique is a soft sandwich and toast bread made from our baguette dough. It’s popular, and too often when I’ve wanted to grab one to take home, we’ve been sold out or nearly so; I’m not going to take the last loaf. It’s a little weird to own a bakery and then go home and bake a loaf for myself, but that’s what I started doing, and that’s when my pan-loaf mission took over. These pan-loaf breads ended up nothing like the crusty levain breads, baguettes, or ciabatta we make at the bakery. But they gave me what I wanted from the pain rustique loaves: a bread that had the goodness of a long-fermented dough; a little retro (I like the comfort of it); and designed for sandwiches, toast, croutons, tapas, stale-bread dog snacks, and pizza toast. These old-style pan breads became a new normal in my house—at first a step away from more rustic Dutch-oven loaves and then, a few loaves later, a happy choice. Same dough. Which style of loaf to bake? This was flexibility beyond the recipes in my first book, and it inspired me to create new doughs as well. The recipes in this book—all new—mostly give you a choice of baking the same dough into a pan loaf or a Dutch-oven loaf.
Loaves like those that I started baking at home—artisan pan breads—haven’t received much attention in the cookbook world. In many bakeries that I’ve admired in France—my original muses—it’s very common to see pan loaves such as pain de mie, as well as others. I didn’t invent artisan pan bread; rather, I just acknowledged my own joy in it, and I hope you do too. These loaves are often baked from a bubbly, wet, and sticky dough, so they sometimes look kind of funky. They can be made up from a simple straight dough or with a sourdough culture, and they can be ready from start to finish in about six hours. Or they can work on an overnight schedule and be ready to bake in the morning. They last for five days without going stale, the flavor is far better than a supermarket sliced bread, and the ingredients list is far shorter. The texture when slices are toasted is sublime—crisp and delicate on the outside, tender in the middle. Your morning toast will get a big upgrade. My dog, Junior, is a big fan.
It makes sense. Old-style, home-baked pan breads can be made using the elements that define good artisan baking—long fermentation, high-quality ingredients, sourdough cultures, and high-temp baking. It’s not difficult. Wouldn’t you love to make sandwich bread that’s of the same quality as the rustic round loaves in Flour Water Salt Yeast
? These pan loaves are my newest, and lasting, bread crush. As I was test-baking Dutch-oven loaves and ran out of pan bread, I quickly made a fresh one. Why is that? You’ll see. My test bakers had the same takeaway—a new bread type that’s at once familiar yet more delicious and more desirable than before. Friends of recipe testers asked, “What’s the secret ingredient?” The same as before: flour, water, salt, and yeast. Time and technique. No surprises there.
During the tinkering process for the pan-bread recipes, I tried making up a Dutch-oven loaf from the same dough. It worked great; one recipe now produces two completely different breads. I was fully into the game at this stage, and my next step was to revise the process for the sourdough recipes from my first book and decrease the amount of waste (extra sourdough that you throw away). The result is a method to make up a new natural levain (sourdough) culture that calls for only a small fraction of the flour that the Flour Water Salt Yeast
levain used. I also figured out a simplified, flour-efficient way to use this culture in these recipes. The levain in this book follows the example of my second book, The Elements of Pizza
. But I adapted its use for bread baking, as bread and pizza doughs have different needs (bread dough requires a lot more rise). Once you establish your own sourdough (it’s a cinch and takes a few minutes a day for a week), you keep it in the refrigerator. Pluck from it to make a new dough as needed and refresh it every seven to ten days. It’s not required for most of these recipes, but it will make them better.
My favorite part of cookbook authoring is the developmental stages that I go through before writing begins. This entails many months of baking at home, testing concepts, refining, refiguring levain on a not-every-day baking schedule, and, in this case, wondering if I could make pan breads that are as desirable as the cool-looking round loaves that bake in a Dutch oven. I got jazzed making a New York–style rye with caraway seeds for a Reuben sandwich. Japanese milk bread is worth its hype, and I wanted to master that and present it to you so you can make your own. This book’s brioche loaf is on a par with the one we’ve made at my bakery for twenty years. Then there are particular sourdough cultures with fruit, like one I used to make at Ken’s Artisan that is hydrated with apple cider, and this book’s apple bread is a faithful rendition. Dense rye bread made with a sourdough culture—that’s in here too. And several recipes have fun stuff in the bread, like black rice flour, corn flour, or tea-soaked raisins and their liquid.
The old is new again! Einkorn, emmer, and spelt are varieties of wheat that date back to ancient times and the beginning of civilization. Yet flour from these grains was extremely hard to find even ten years ago. A growing number of farmers have been planting fields with these varieties and others that just taste better than wheat grown for the mass market. Some are as old as old gets, and there is an increasing market for them. You might hear the names heritage grains, ancient wheat varieties
, and landrace wheat
to describe these flours. Stone milling brings out the best in these grains, and the recent trend has been for wheat farmers and farm collectives to bring the milling in-house and then sell direct to bakers and consumers. It is progress that I’ve long wished for. Landrace varieties of wheat, like Rouge de Bordeaux, and modern hybrids, like Edison, shift the mindset of wheat as solely a commodity product to wheat that has varietal characteristics just as apples, cherries, and grapes do, not to mention the possibility of terroir. There are several recipes here to make pan loaves and Dutch-oven breads from some of these high-quality grains. Once you try them, it’s hard to stop.
I found everything about making bread at home is easier in one-loaf batch sizes, using a 6-quart tub to mix the dough by hand—no mixer needed for most. The dough will rise in the same tub that you mix it in. Most of the reasons for one-loaf recipes are obvious: less to measure out; less dough to shape, manage, and bake. When it’s less work, I’m inclined to do it more often, and I’m hoping that you will be too.
There you have it. Evolutions in Bread
creates a new category for the home baker: artisan pan breads. It makes sourdough easier and flour efficient. It gives you flexibility to make two and sometimes three different breads from the same recipe, as open-pan loaves, lidded-pan loaves, and Dutch-oven loaves. Make your own Multigrain Bread or dive into some creative recipes, like Black Bread, Butter Bread, Hazelnut Bread, and Apple-Cider Levain Bread, that will add range to any home baker’s repertoire. The recipes that use emmer and einkorn flour, two ancient wheat varieties, are a must try.
As always, happy baking!
Copyright © 2022 by Ken Forkish. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.