My copy of Daniel Leader’s Local Breads has arrived at last, and I’ve spent all week buried in its pages.
Leader’s book is the stories and recipes he gathered from his travel around artisan bakeries, mostly in France and Italy, but also a few from Germany, the Czech Republic and Poland.
It’s been strange to work with a book again. Until now, my project has been an exercise in ‘how far can I get with the internet alone?’ The answer: pretty far. But the change has shone a light on what internet research doesn’t do well: perspective, depth, analysis. No surprises there. Digging up reliable, authentic recipes online is also plain old hard work. It’s so nice to have 100 or so served up on a plate.
I had a picnic today, so I picked three of Leader’s recipes and got to work.
There’s a Quintessential French Sourdough (the rounded, slashed batards), Pierre Nury’s Rustic Light Rye (the rough oblong) and a Volkornbrot.
Pierre Nury’s rye is my favourite. The loaf comes from the “rugged and insular” Auvergne region of France, whose relative isolation has allowed a distinct bread-making tradition to spring up. The loaves sometimes contain a far heartier percentage of rye flour than Parisian bread, which maxes out at 8%. This one doesn’t have much rye, but some loaves in the region are up to 100%.
Leader warns that this loaf is too wet to knead by hand and too wet to shape. You just grab both ends of the dough, stretch it out a bit and throw it in the oven. I did knead it by hand, actually, and it worked just fine after a messy early stage.
(I wonder, actually, if Leader’s flour is absorbing a bit less water than mine. This Auvergne dough wasn’t quite as wet as I was expecting and the French Sourdough loaves turned out drier than I would have liked.)
This loaf, in any case, was a thoroughly fun process: some messy kneading, 2-3 hours to ferment, then a retardation step overnight in the fridge. Then you pull it out, let it warm up, shape it and bake it straight away. The taste was fantastic: moist inside, crispy outside, with a tang of rye brought out by its night in the fridge.
Quintessential French Sourdough, on the other hand, had a decent flavour but I would like to try it again with more water. It rose beautifully, though.
I’d like to include a recipe here, but frankly it’s bedtime. Buy Leader’s book. But mind the errors. More on those later, I’m sure.