I was happy I got the chance to tell this story of Roland Feuillas, who grows and mills ancient varieties of wheat in the south of France. He also bakes the bread in the village of Cucugnon, not far from the border with Spain. The story, which references windmills, a 16th century wheat, Jesus Christ and Terre Madre, begins in this podcast at minute 1:30 and finishes around 8:15. Then the show segues into the remainder of the interview.
Russ Parsons, the food editor and columnist for the Los Angeles Times, wrote a terrific review of In Search of the Perfect Loaf. He seemed to really get what I was after: celebrating the craft of bread making and all that it entails and also looking at the myriad ramifications of bread, which can be sliced in so many ways. Here are a few excerpts:Read More
Sam Fromartz’s book In Search of the Perfect Loaf: A Home Baker’s Odyssey was recently published by Viking and it’s already causing a stir. Mark Bittman tweeted it “bread book of the year.” The Washington Post described it as a "brilliant memoir." Alice Waters and Daniel Leader of Bread Alone have been singing its praises. He travelled through Europe and the US, working next to artisan bakers and perfecting his craft, but in this memoir-cum-travel-cum-baking narrative he weaves in the history of grains, the science of bread making, and the personalities of bakers. Fromartz, who is editor-in-chief of the Food & Environment Reporting Network, sat down to discuss the book with Slow Food USA.
Slow Food USA: As a home baker, you won an award for the best baguette in Washington, DC. It seemed to take enormous attention – ie, you don’t seem like the usual home baker.
Well, as a home baker for more than 15 years, I kind of went off the deep end with this obsession. I went to Paris to work in a boulangerie, mostly because I wasn’t familiar with the many steps it takes to produce a good one. Shaping is probably the most difficult. But it also takes time to learn when dough is properly fermented. Once I put those elements together, I was able to make the award-winning loaf. That said, I don’t think I’m really that different from other committed home bakers out there. Scan the internet, and you’ll see many amazing loaves. Home bakers are really having their day.Read More
I heard a comic say last night that instead of offering gluten free loaves, she would offer free gluten -- which is actually what I've been doing when I offer bread samples at book talks. And with those samples of free gluten I've found that people have been given permission to enjoy bread at a time when it's so often maligned.
Then again, I'm not simply talking about bread, but rather all the facets of what it takes to make Great Bread like the loaf pictured above. The Wall Street Journal highlighted this in a piece by Jim Lahey, reviewing the book. (The link is here but it's behind their paywall, so if you don't subscribe you can only see it if you google "wall street journal fromartz" and click on the link for the review.)Read More
When I was interviewed for the Washington Post about In Search of the Perfect Loaf, I actually didn't have a recipe on hand that would work for the paper. Most of the recipes in the book are made with sourdough, the ingredients are measured by weight, and I explain them in detailed steps that run several pages in some instances. So what to do for a newspaper with limited space?
I came up with this recipe, which still uses whole wheat, whole rye and white flour--classic components of the pain de campagne loaf. I also knew I wouldn't be able to use sourdough, because I wouldn't have space to explain the technique. So I substituted a minute amount of yeast instead and added fermented cider for flavor. Risen overnight, then baked in a covered pot the next day, the loaf has a marvelous and mild taste.Read More
I've been gratified by the media attention the new book is getting and just want to make note of a few articles and interviews here.
Tim Carman of the Washington Post visited me in my home kitchen while I mixed, shaped and baked some breads and wrote about the process here, which was a bit awkward for me.
In some ways this book has thrust me down a new path with my baking, but still, at home, I bake quietly just as I've been doing for years.
The book, though, brought a new depth to the process and I explain some of the themes here on KPBS in San Diego.
My book In Search of the Perfect Loaf launched yesterday with a flurry of Twitter traffic. This world is so much different than the last time I published a book, way back in the prehistoric age of 2006 when we all emailed each other.
Well, in the new world, I received some gratifying tweets from many people I respect as fellow writers.
Reviews and press coverage are starting to flow and I'd highlight this interview of me in Kirkus by another obsessed baker, Matt Lewis, who notes "bread is having another moment." Here's a brief excerpt:
In Block Island during the summer, there's plenty of sun and surf and long walks on the beach but aside from a decent bagel bakery not much in the way of fresh bread. So I usually take a small bit of sourdough starter and instant yeast on vacation to satisfy my bread-making itch. Then I make a big bin of dough and slice off pieces I can use during the next couple of days.
Although I usually weigh my ingredients, I leave my scale at home, because it's one more thing to lug along on vacation. I figure I'll just wing it once I arrive. I did this time, measuring out around 4 cups of flour (3 cups white and 1 cup whole wheat), a 1/2 cup or so of refreshed sourdough starter, 1/2 teaspoon yeast and then enough water to make a dough that looked familiar in consistency. I'd love to tell you how much water I used but I didn't measure it, just working by feel. (But you can try this grilled bread technique with any decent dough recipe you have, even bypassing sourdough. If I make the dough again, I'll measure it and update this post).
The tricky part though was salt, since I didn't even have measuring spoons on hand. So I added what looked around 2 teaspoons. As I periodically folded the dough, I tasted it and adjusted the salt by adding a bit more. When I made the bread later that day, they seemed light on seasoning, but when I baked another batch from the same dough a day later, after 24 hours fermentation in the refrigerator, they were fine. The increasing acidity in the dough balanced the slightly lower level of salt. No one who ate the bread even mentioned the salt level.
I made sure to slice off a piece of the dough from the final batch and added it with more sourdough to another batch of dough a day later. It rose for a day (again in the fridge) and I made breakfast rolls and then flat bread for dinner (pictured above).
Flat bread is especially fun to make because it takes about 15 minutes. I remove the dough, make baseball size balls, flatten them out on a well-floured counter and let them rest for about 5 minutes. Then I begin to stretch them out, letting them rest again as soon as the gluten tightens, adding flour as I go. I find the oblong shape easier to work with because you can continue to stretch out the dough easily.
To grill these loaves, just make sure the pre-heated grill surface is clean, at a medium heat. Stretch the loaves out once more and then place them directly on the grill. Cover the grill if you can. If not, don't worry about it. Wait a few minutes (careful to watch them so they don't burn), then with tongs, flip them over. They should bake in 5-8 minutes total.
These loaves turned out like pita, with an airy pocket inside. We just ripped off pieces and ate them with fish, sopping up the sauce on the plate.
This impressive work falls somewhere between a cookbook, an exploration of bread-baking techniques, and a history of bread. It’s thoroughly researched and engagingly written, and his dedication is inspiring.Read More
As a writer, I’ve often approached the written word through an instinctual and sometimes painful process. I’ve put a lot of currency into a kind of gut feeling of what works and what does not. But now as an editor, I’m working with younger writers. In many instances, I’ve had to think about what I actually do and how to convey it. So here are some tips to consider on getting your project done.Read More
And I'm sending it back in the mail to Viking/Penguin. (Yeah, at this stage it's hard copy, not electronic). This is the final stage before the whole thing goes to rest. I can't believe it's over. But there have been so many of these last stages, turning in the manuscript, going over the edit, doing the second draft, etc. etc that it almost feels anticlimactic. And any remaining mistakes are now my own damn fault!
For those who are curious, the book will be out right after the summer.
For the past two years, I've been watching Borgen, a Danish television series which tracks a female politician who rises to become prime minister. The series is quite entertaining and actually addictive, since the stong-willed but principled leader is someone you could relate to: Season 1 began with her riding her bicycle to Parliament. It deals with the conflict of work and home life, and all the intrigue of multi-party politics.Read More