Caraway rye bread

On his blog, renowned food writer and “cook it yourself” advocate Michael Ruhlman has dedicated the month of January to the topic of home bread baking. I’ve dabbled in bread in the past: there’s something so romantic about the idea of taking such elemental ingredients – flour, water, yeast, salt – and making a foodstuff that’s so central to the Western diet.

That said, I consider bread-making, especially kneading, to be one of the dark arts, right alongside tempering chocolate. Sure, I can make a decent loaf of bread for myself, but I’ve never made what I would consider to be a great loaf. Certainly nothing as good as what I can buy just down the street at a relatively low cost. I figure there’s a good reason specialist, artisanal bakeries exist.

Still, it’s worth putting together a loaf every now and then, just to maintain a connection to the staff of life. To that end, I gave Ruhlman’s caraway rye bread recipe a shot. As usual, my loaf came out OK, but not great. Specifically, I got next to no oven spring, and the loaf is a touch denser than I’d like. (Was it from a too-short first rise? A too-long second rise? I’m not sure.) But the flavour is good, and I can take a certain amount of pride in having made it myself.

There are still 10 days left in January, which is plenty of time to take up Ruhlman’s challenge, if you haven’t already: check out the recipes he and his guest authors have been offering all month, or grab your favourite bread book, and remind yourself why bread is so fundamental.

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