Four simple ingredients provide the staff of life; water, flour, salt, a rising agent. I believe good bread is a serious and important subject and anyone who knows their craft deserves the spotlight. I have great appreciation and respect for those who do it right.
Lucky for me, locally, I have a top master bread baker at Blue Duck Bakery Cafe, in Southampton, NY. Their artisan breads are made in the old world tradition of European bakers. Simply, well done.
“The technique and observation of sensitivity of the artisan baker produce distinctive and personalized loaves of bread. Artisan bread may differ from day to day and loaf to loaf with variations in shaper, color and texture due to human touch and the breads’ organic nature. Each loaf is formed by hand, assessed by the eye and subject to the baker’s judgment at every step”, Keith Kouris, master baker, The Blue Duck Bakery Cafe.
My passionate beginnings as a chef were rooted in bread baking, taught by master bakers. You had to learn respect of the ‘basic four’ ingredients and how they react, based on a variety of circumstances; like weather and the 'living product's' own conditions, due to bread’s organic nature.
It used to be that to experience the taste of a European Bakery you had to travel across the pond. That is no longer true. You can receive a fire oven baked loaf from Poilâne, Paris via mail. Yes, it can be done. Poilâne ships loaves daily; like the Breadclub 5 Loaf Pack, so you can let your family and friends in on the good dough.
The Poilâne Story: In 1932, a young baker from Normandy came to Paris to open his first shop. The bakery was located in the artsy Saint- Germain des Prés district. Large round off-white crumb sourdough loaves (below) are a traditional French bread. Pierre Poilâne saw a dual advantage to his four pound loaves: they kept longer and could be cut into large slices. Pierre's son Lionel carried the passion for bread and what he called "retro-innovation". The old tradition continues today as this thriving family business has expanded beyond Paris - now in London; with grand daughter carrying on in grand-father's and father's floured footsteps.
The Poilâne Loaf: The signature loaf is made of 4 ingredients: sourdough, flour, water and sea salt from Guérande. It is a round loaf with a thick, golden crust as it is cooked in a wood-burning oven. It carries the signature mark P for Poilâne. Each loaf weighs about 4lbs or 1.9kg (weight may vary as each loaf is handcrafted). Well suited with meats, soft cheeses as well as foie gras or salmon. The size of the slices makes it a good bread for sandwiches.
Friends, I would love to finish this post with a recipe replicating the bread from the image above. But honestly it can't be done. The magic in that wood-fired brick oven just can't be duplicated in your home kitchen range. Yes, baking bread at home can be done. I just can't bring myself to selling you on the idea that it is going to look or taste remotely like that. Today, I am encouraging you to support your local bakery or market and buy a good loaf.