The smell of bread baking is legendary. Just the memory of it is an olfactory arrow straight to the heart—and then the stomach. Before there was such a thing as a bread aisle, bread was baked at home. As with laundry and ironing, our great-grandmas used to devote a whole day every week to bread baking. Not just white bread but all kinds: whole wheat, potato, pumpernickel, soda, whatever was at hand. And this was bread that had heft and character and integrity, none of this limp cardboard-tasting stuff that tears when you try to spread butter on it. Plus crust! Dense, yeasty crust, crust you could really sink your teeth into.
To produce even one such loaf involves making the starter by mixing yeast with other ingredients and letting it rise, adding flour to make the dough, letting it rise again, then punching it down, pulling, pushing, slamming, spanking, patting it and repeat. It’s meditative and laborious, both. And it all starts with this magical rising agent, yeast. Continue reading