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Really Good Bread

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I am interested in making homemade, authentic, really good bread! I know that with Italian bread you start with a "biga". I have made good Italian bread by using potato water (whenever I boil potatoes for dinner I save the water for bread making), instead of plain water from the tap (we have our own good, pure well water). What formula does a really professional baker use? I also know that the quality (or brand) of flour is important. A good loaf of bread can really enhance a good luncheon or dinner!

It used to be that one could buy a good Italian Loaf of Bread from a bakery, but in my area.....even the bakeries have gone "down-hill" in that catagory, so want to do my own baking!

What are the chief differences between Italian Bread and French Bread :confused::
post #2 of 11
Gosh, there are so many different ways! Different regional traditions, etc.

Italian often use a biga as you are on to, while French bakers often use a levain. Italian biga is usually made from commercial yeast, while a levain is a "starter" from natural wild yeast. It is not like a "sourdough" in flavor at all, so don't think san franciso sourdough because a starter is used. It produces a very finely flavored bread. The old school levains are a stiffer dough-like levain, but starting in the 90s some have gone over to an easier liquid levain.

I'll recommend a new book to you, called Local Breads by Daniel Leader (author of Bread Alone). (you can use the Jump to Amazon link on this forum to buy it, it's a reasonable price). It's a good balance of being considerate to the home cook, but also containing professional information and "secrets." The author is an outstanding artisanal baker himself, and for this book he traveled to exceptional bakers throughout Europe and spent time with them and has compiled a really nice book featuring their breads with well-explained details of how they're made. I have many breadbaking books, this is the one I would recommend to the home cook who wants to learn the methods used by the finest bakeries, but not be overwhelmed.

I share your lament that it is becoming more difficult to buy a good loaf of bread these days in many locations, and wish you the best on your journey to discover how to make one.
post #3 of 11
I would add that you could do a lot worse that Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. With it you'll learn the why of what you do, as well as the what.

If I had to be confined to just one bread-making book, that would be the one.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #4 of 11
Just don't get the Bread Bible. Obtuse, confusing and unclear.
Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #5 of 11
Parisian bread (the baguette) uses a preferment similar to biga in the making of their breads (levain for sourdough country breads). I agree that the bread baker's apprentice is a very good resource for bakers. I've had success with many of his recipes.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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post #6 of 11
I loved the Bread Bakers Apprentice too, and also recommend it highly. It's a winner of the James Beard Foundation book awards, and the IACP Book of the Year, etc. It's been a standard breadbaking text for some time, and it's a good one to get also. (BTW I'm just working my way through Reinhart's book on Whole Grains, it seems amazing too for you Reinhart fans, he used 350 recipe testers and made quite a project out of mastering the challenges of whole grains).

However, I was really surprised at the quality of Local Breads as a breadbaking book. The breads I've baked from it so far have been a success. As it's written, it has a lot of FAQ (one big FAQ at the front, then an FAQ in each recipe/region section). I was impressed with a troubleshooting section he had with questions where something might have gone wrong: he tells you both what to do to salvage what you've got and what to do differently next time. I found it a very inviting, non-overwhelming book that had things well set out for the home cook, with very practical advice. And top-notch recipes from great bakers too.

fer sure, but a number of Parisian bakers have revived the traditional technique of using levain in baguettes, for a baguette with more character. Baguette a l'ancienne.
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thank You All !!

Thank you for your much appreciated "in-put". Looks like I am going to add two or three new books to my Baking Library. My Dad made his living in the Hospitality Industry, so I do have his old books but none of them are on bread baking.

When I was a youngster I did not have the interest in cooking and baking as I do now. DH and I have a true passion for good bread. When I visited relatives in Germany I was "floored" by the variety of breads you could buy in the markets....and they were all so delicious!

Since my Dad is no longer available to answer my questions, Chef Talk is the next best thing! Thank you - Thank you for this Forum!!!
post #8 of 11
Italian Bread | The Fresh Loaf I like the internet for bread recipes.books are great for work but when I'm at home I use the web. this one looks good.
post #9 of 11
Lisbet, if you do buy some new books, don't forget to use our direct link to Amazon.

Also, you might peruse the book review archives. There are some interesting insights to be found among the reviews as well.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #10 of 11
Biga= make your bread recipe but don't bake it. Just take the recipe to the stage where you would do the final proof before baking. Instead of the final proof, put dough in a litely oiled bowl or container, cover tightly, and refridgerate over night. (you may want to 1/2 the recipe) You can also keep this in the fridge for a couple of days....the longer it sits, the better flavor ti will develop....but too long and you'll get sourdough.

The next day, use a portion of "the biga" in your bread recipe. Then, save a portion of that dough as "the biga" for your next batch. If you don't plan on making bread for a while, then you would just use all and do it all over the next time.

But...what you could do is go all out and bake a lot of bread at once and freeze it for the future.
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

Really Good Bread

Everyone's experienced, opinions and guidance is deeply appreciated! I love baking bread by hand....there is no nicer gift that you can give your family and friends. It is very much a gift of love, and and is always an approptiate gift for a friend.

"KYH" I do promise to get my books via the ChefTalk link....usually get my cooking books from Amazon anyway.

"Lana" thanks for the very practical tip! Good Advice!!

Viele, viele Danke!
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