Monday, February 20, 2012

Where have you been?

It's a good question, really.

Honestly, I let it get out of hand this past Christmas and I said "Yes"; I helped, hand-made, and hosted; I cleaned, visited, baked, cooked, and did many other things I do not specifically remember. It was a wonderful holiday full of loved family and friends and I wouldn't change it.

And then it was January. Because of all the 'doing' in December, I worked to complete the one Christmas gift I was unable to finish and give before December 25th.

The ones at either end went to my boys and both were named after food; Apple is on the left and Cocoa is on the right.

I delivered the precious Lambies to their respective people (all aged between 4 and 10) and all the knitting, sewing, and stuffing of those precious animals took the lion's share of January.

And then...

I became...


... by bread.

I was not eaten, but I became fully involved, enamoured. How do I make it? How do I make it well?

Fluffy? Flavourful? With or without a sweetener for the yeast to feed on?

With yeast? Can I add the yeast and salt and sugar together?

Salt kills yeast, preventing it from being effective. Notice the large flake Kosher salt in with the round tan coloured yeast. This batch did not rise.

How do I make it without yeast? Can you do that? What is that called?

It's called starter and it is flour and water; alive.

I feed it fresh flour and water every day; then it grows and shrinks; this is how to make sourdough.

How does it all work? Will I always bake bricks or will one of these, one day, actually be edible?!

What happens when I make bread with a blend of rye, whole wheat, and white instead of just all-purpose flour?

Smaller batches of dough like resting in an earthen-ware pot with a lid.

Countless hours spent on websites and youtube researching, reading, learning, baking.

Several bakings through all my bread recipes from cookbooks, from family, from friends.

Free-form whole wheat, white, and rye bread that ended up being a bit flatter than I intended.

Artesian or conventional? Sourdough or active yeast? Free-form or bread pan? Bake it hot and fast or lower and slower?

Do I add a fat of some kind - oil or butter? What difference does it make if I include a fat or not?

Can I just roll out bread dough and make cinnamon buns?
Yes, yes I can.

So many questions to ask, so few answers. Yet there were people making bread, flavourful amazing bread, with just flour, water, and salt. How on EARTH does that work?!

I've been adding salt, yeast, honey, and oil and I'm still making barely edible bricks. Dense loaves. Loaves I cannot, in good conscience, even give away.

Beautiful, but it was a brick.

And then I found a local baker, in Calgary, making incredible artesian-style bread. I needed to eat some of this bread... many people are talking about it.

So, one Saturday morning we made the pilgrimage to Sidewalk Citizen Bakery to buy some of this incredible bread.

And it was incredible. Inspirational. Amazing. Delicious. Made with just flour, water, and salt.

While you are deciding how much of what treats you will buy, you are handed a slice of fresh, still warm from the oven bread, slathered with a little butter. 

If you live near Calgary and can carve out an extra 5 minutes of your Friday or Saturday, you must go to the Sidewalk Citizen Bakery and buy then eat some of Aviv's INCREDIBLE baking.

I implore you.

As the days turned into weeks, my bread eventually became fluffier, lighter, good enough to even give some away.

Dough variation #3 of the day; note the number of slashes in the tops.

Hey look!! It rose AND was yummy - I even gave one of these loaves away.

My husband has also become intrigued by this line of questions; the flour, the ratios, the process.

Books have been purchased and two of the four have been read. Like a novel. Yes, cookbooks; actually, bread cookbooks.

Bread that almost worked.

It has finally happened. Amazing bread. Flavourful bread. Leavened with sourdough starter that we made. With flour and water. And then bread made with more water and flour and salt.

That's it. Just that.

And it is incredible bread!!

Bread that finally worked!!

Today is Family Day in Alberta, where we live. We are packing up the kids, sixteen loaves of fresh bread, and are going on a road trip around the Calgary area.

Today's large batch of dough having a little bench rest under kitchen towels.

Today's bread - bench rested and now baked.
A few friends and family are going to receive the bread we have baked. I can hear the crust snapping and popping as it cools on the rack.

I hope they like it.

I hope it tastes as good as it looks.


  1. Incredible looking bread - you are certainly doing something right!! (sourdough is an art I've yet to accomplish . . . )
    Heather (ex Nasby :)

  2. Thanks Heather! I think I've been bitten by the bread bug - my day does not feel complete without it sitting on my counter, fermenting, rising, waiting to be made into something beautiful.