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Pollan and Pan Au Levain

September 24, 2013

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You can buy great tasting fresh bread from local bakeries and grocery stores, but there is something to be said for making your own bread from scratch. My mom is a fabulous bread baker. She has mastered her own recipe that incorporates steel cut oatmeal. Her bread is light as air and has the perfect amount of chew or “crumb”. I apologize in advance to the gluten-free, because great bread is all about gluten; the networks of proteins that give bread its amazing chewy texture.

After reading Michael Pollan’s latest book, COOKED, (and hoping to take after my mom) I was inspired to take a stab at baking my own bread. First, I signed up for a class at my alma mater to learn how expert baker, Michael Kallanty, makes his famous San Francisco sourdough. Just as Pollan outlines in his book, the process of making a loaf of pan au levain (bread with levain, aka, a sourdough starter) is a lengthy labor of love. I started on Thursday evening by feeding my starter, made the levain Friday, the dough Saturday and finally sampled my fermented loaf on Sunday. And to my surprise, it was heavenly. Making bread is an incredibly rewarding project. Now that fall is here, devote a weekend to it, it’s worth every minute. The ingredients are simply: flour (whole-grain and AP), water and salt. The required equipment: a scale and a pizza stone or bread cloche. And finally, just some patience and a little TLC.

If you want a little motivation in the kitchen, read COOKED. You’ll be braising meats, drinking beer and baking bread in no time. COOKED has a recipe for sourdough bread, as does Chad Robertson’s latest cookbook, Tartine Book No.3. Here’s The New York Times recipe to get you started.

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