I attended a 4-hour bread making class in Culver City led by Rose Lawrence of Red Bread where we all learned how to make an artisan wild-yeast French Country Loaf.
All of the proceeds from the workshop went to benefit Food Forward, a non-profit organization that rescues local produce from going to waste and distributes it to people in need. They gather at local residences, public spaces, farmer’s markets, and wholesale food establishments to collect excess fruits and vegetables and then give it to local agencies to feed the hungry.
Bread has been given a bad rap in the last decade to the point that many see it as almost evil. Everyone is on the bandwagon to go gluten-free and rightly so. Bread in the US has been so bastardized that it’s causing mass cases of gluten intolerance. We’re told, “bread will make you sick.” “Bread will make you fat.” “Stop eating bread.”
My own bread consumption was down to almost zero until I went to Europe. While I was there I ate all the bread I wanted without feeling the least bit bloated. In many European countries, bakers pride themselves on their bread making traditions. Bread is made using wild yeast starters instead of relying on commercially produced yeast. Some bakeries have starters that go back for decades or more that they use to bake fresh and delicious loaves every day.
Unfortunately, the use of commercial yeast is beginning to sneak into European bread making practices because American technology is considered to be “sexy.” Europeans haven’t yet seen the results of using commercial yeast or employing American bread making techniques. Right now the incidences of gluten intolerance are significantly lower in Europe than it is in America. Let’s hope that Europeans realize this and stick to their traditions.
At our bread making class, we baked what I like to call “real bread.” Bread has always been considered to be “the staff of life.” I’m sure you’ve heard of people subsisting on “bread and water.” Although you’d croak quickly eating only Wonder Bread, it’s likely you’d survive for a long time eating “real bread.” It’s high in protein and fiber that’s necessary to sustain life.
Bread Facts Learned in Our Bread Making Workshop
- Good bread doesn’t need sugar added. Don’t you hate it when you buy a loaf of bread at the store and it starts to develop a green powdery mold? I know I do. It’s because sugar has been added to the recipe. Guess what? You don’t have to add sugar to make heavenly tasting bread. It will stay fresh wrapped up in a dish towel for about 2 weeks. Who knew?
- Leave your starter container loosely covered. If it’s sealed you may have an explosion. You can store it in the refrigerator because the temperature slows down the fermenting process.
- Keep about 2 quarts of starter at a time.
- If you see a gray layer in your starter, it’s hooch (Moonshine) pour it off and don’t drink it.
- Rye bread has the lowest amount of gluten.
- All flours contain wild yeast. A starter is a mixture of flour and water that is allowed to ferment and come alive. You have to keep feeding it with more flour and water to maintain it.
Rose Lawrence and her husband David started their business, Red Bread in 2012 to “bring whole, natural and artisanal food to the Westside of Los Angeles.” They set up at local Farmer’s markets, had a pop-up restaurant on Washington Blvd, and are currently working to open a brand new space soon. In the meantime, they partner with LA-based food organizations to provide lunch and dinner pop-ups throughout the year.
At our workshop, held at Platine Cookies, in Culver City, each participant (7 ladies in total) received a jar of starter to bring home.
Equipment needed to make “real bread.”
A food scale – place a bowl on top of your food scale, set the TARE to zero and add the ingredients in grams. If you follow the exact measurements, your end result will be delicious although quantities will depend on room temperature and other factors.
Measuring ingredients for bread
Pizza stones – Rose recommends having two. One sits at the bottom of your oven and the other is used to bake your bread on. You can also use an upside down cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Put a muffin tin filled with water inside the oven as well for moisture or spray the oven with a mist of water before baking.
There are two kinds of bread scrapers, bowl (flexible) and bench. (hard) You can use these to scrape flour out of the bowl or off the table and to help shape the bread.
I always thought you had to have strong muscles to knead the dough, but you don’t. Each turn can be completed in about 8 “kneads.” First, flatten the bread into an oval shape with your hands. With your palm, pull a side of the dough and fold it all the way over. Take a quarter turn and repeat for 8 turns total. (twice around)
A person with cool hands will have less trouble with stickiness when kneading. If you tend to run hot, like many menopausal women do, put your hands in the freezer for a few minutes before working with your bread.
The best way to clean your hands, when working with dough, is to rub a little dry flour on them over a trash can. This removes most of the grit so you won’t clog your pipes.
I’ve included Rose’s French Country Loaf recipe below. You will have to either obtain some culture (starter) from someone who is willing to share or you can create your own here. Some starter recipes call for a lemon peel or other fruit but Rose doesn’t recommend this as it turns to sugar and will cause your bread to mold.
Using a high-quality flour (I use King Arthur) is important to make great bread. If you want to try bread making yourself, Rose recommends that you use all local organic flours. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, visit Grist and Toll in Pasadena. They have their own mill and hand grind their flour. It’s excellent. I went to a lecture recently called Main Grains: Local and Heirloom by Nan Kohler, owner of Grist and Toll, at the Culinary Historians of Southern California at the L.A Central Library.
Red Bread sources their flour from central milling, community grains and Grist and Toll.
For reference in the recipe below see the difference between the shape of a batard and a boule.
I think the process of bread making is relaxing and it makes your house smell wonderful.
Enjoy this recipe and keep on baking fresh, healthy bread.
- 300 g Culture (obtain some or start your own)
- 312 g water
- 350 g Bread Flour (has the internal kernel of wheat removed from the husk that has a consistent protein content of 12-14%)
- 100 g Whole wheat flour
- 17 g Celtic salt
- Measure out culture.
- Add water and stir well with fingers.
- Let it rest 30 mins
- Combine the 2 flours.
- Sprinkle in the flour into the culture mixture reserving one cup to adjust for variances in temperature.
- Let it rest for 30 mins.
- Add salt
- Put the dough on a flour powdered surface and slap it one time. (this will let you know if it is too sticky. If it is sprinkled in a little more flour)
- Stretch and fold the dough until it resists. (approx 8 times with quarter turns)
- Let it rest for 30 mins.
- Repeat 3 times (stretch and fold the dough 8 times with quarter turns and let it rest 30 minutes)
- On the 3rd time allow the dough to proof 2 hours at room temperature.
- Move to the refrigerator for an overnight rise. (can be kept for 3 days before baking)
- When ready to bake, divide the dough into 2 portions for 1 lb 5 oz batards or one 3 lb boule.
- Flatten into an oval and shape, pinching seams well.
- If using pizza stones place the loaves on a "slip" - you can use a cookie sheet dusted with flour. (this makes it easier to let them "slip" onto the pizza stone.)
- Proof for 1 hour at room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 500.
- Slash to create a design on top of the bread (straight line, cross, or star with scissors)
- Place in oven and bake for 30 min for batard (long and narrow) 1 hour for large boule (round) or until golden brown.
- To test, turn the loaf over and tap lightly. It should sound hollow.
- Remove from the oven and place on wire racks to cool.
- Allow 30 minutes to cool completely before cutting it.