New book: Joe Ortiz’s The Village Baker, plus Loaf 15

My copy of Joe Ortiz’s The Village Baker arrived a few days ago. Ortiz’s narrative here is broadly similar to Daniel Leader’s in Local Breads: American baker travels to Old Europe, visits artisan bakeries in France, Italy and Germany, writes about recipes reverentially. In retrospect I should have gone for something a bit more different for my second proper bread book. Still, there are interesting things about Ortiz and I’m enjoying absorbing a new perspective.

The cover looks like it comes from 1993, which it does:

ortiz cover

But some of the design inside is really nice. These are his symbols for different leavening methods:

ortiz inside

The Village Baker was ahead of its time, an early product of the snowballing of the artisan bread movement in 1990s in the US. (This New York Times article about how supermarkets are biting back with parbaked artisan-style loaves is well worth a read, by the way.) The Fresh Loaf’s review even credits The Village Baker with “having a lot to do” with the blossoming of the movement in the US.

Other observations so far: where Leader is technical, breaking each recipe down into volume, metric, imperial and baker’s %s, Ortiz’s recipes give volumes and leave it at that. He also breaks recipes down by leavening method much more explicitly, and articulates the advantages of methods other than sourdough, which I’d always just assumed was The Best Method.

I was interested, for example, than using a sponge (poolish) is a middle ground between the light and fluffy effect of yeast and the chewy irregularity of sourdough. I’d also really like to try the porridge method, apparently the most ancient, where you soak flour or grains overnight and they begin to ferment. He says you can use this method with or without yeast – surely flour just fermented overnight wouldn’t be enough to raise a loaf alone? We’ll see.

Also, I baked Loaf 15 a few days ago: Polish Country Rye from Dan Leader.

polish cottage rye

This is only about 30% rye, but it has quite a kick because you ferment quite a lot of the flour with a rye starter for 10 hours beforehand, by which time it’s properly sour. The crumb has just a hint of stickiness. On the whole it’s just a very hearty, robust, no-nonsense loaf.

The Polish Cottage Rye is actually unusual for Polish ryes: they’re normally delicately-flavoured, a different breed entirely from the assertive sourness of German ryes. More on typical Polish loaves later, I’m sure.


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