Last year I got frustrated with the quality of bread I could get in my neighborhood. Compared to a lot of places in the states, we actually have great bread on Capitol Hill. There’s a Le Pain Quotidien just around the corner, Fine Sweet Shop at Eastern Market, and until recently, Marvelous Market.
But none of them quite game me the bread I was looking for. So I started baking my own. I’ve found it meditative, challenging, and very fulfilling. It’s forced me to rethink some of my cooking as well, as the precision required, and the variables of humidity, temperature, and time focus my thoughts on the science … not just the art… of making food.
I started out trying to fabricate a really great baguette – something I thought we were missing here in DC even before our spring trip to Paris. After a couple of mediocre attempts, I first got a product I was really happy with using Weekend Bakery’s 80% Hydration Baguette. Crisp and chewy, depth of flavor, it’s a really wonderful and simple bread that requires a little more attention than, well, I sometimes have available. But it really got me thinking about other ways of developing flavor, and how working flour, water, salt and yeast could yield so many different results.
Since then I’ve experimented more and more. Natural levain, long rises, etc. Now I bake pretty much every weekend, and with a few exceptions, we haven’t bought bread in months.