I have always loved baking and have often said that in my next life I will be a pastry chef, although I don’t think the early morning hours will agree with me. Lately, I have been baking bread more and more. As I fall further into the rabbit hole of all that is delicious and wonderful about baking your own bread, I have come to realize that there are MANY similarities between baking bread and making wine. From the type of flour you use to the length of the proof (fermentation) you choose, there are many decisions to be made that mirror what we do in winemaking.
For instance, did you know that different strains of wheat contain different levels of tannin, that can contribute to bitterness in your bread? As winemakers, we manage tannin extraction in our red wines during fermentation to create a wine with body, and hopefully no bitter tannins. In breadmaking, you either knead the dough to create a gluten structure or you allow for a long, slow bulk fermentation that results in the gluten structure that is needed. When making wine, we can adjust how we pump over or punch down our red wine fermentations to build the structure of the resulting wine. In artisan bread making, pre-ferments are typically used to start the fermentation and then the bread is allowed to go through a slow fermentation with contributes many complex layers of flavor to the resulting loaf. In wine making, there are many decisions that can be made along the way to help add complexity and layers of flavor as well. Your approach to breadmaking can be very scientific and precise, or it can be a bit more rustic and artful, which is winemaking in a nutshell.
Two books that I personally enjoy and feel that embody these two extremes are America’s Test Kitchen Bread Illustrated and Flour Water Salt Yeast The Fundamentals of Artisan Bread and Pizza by Ken Forkish. Both have inspired me to make more bread at home. As a matter of fact, this hobby of making bread has turned into a bit of a competition with my friend and colleague, Rachel Mercer. We both started posting pictures of our freshly baked loafs on Instagram and it quickly turned into a challenge. You can follow our #breadwars on Wautoma’s Instagram page WAUTOMAWINES. Rachel has recently been turning her breadmaking into culinary art, which is probably not fair since she is a chef and I am not, but we will let you be the judge of who wins at #breadwars!
Jess writes things, and then I post them, so I (Rachel) get the final say. Of course I'm winning #breadwars as I'm team sourdough - and we all know that sourdough makes the best starter (who needs instant yeast, am I right?) In seriousness our friendly competition has been great, and not only as a way to provide some great tasting bread on the table, but reading about sourdough and long fermentations, there's many potential health benefits. Bread making can be intimidating. But it's really easy, especially if you figure out how to time things. All my breads, lately, have been natural sourdough (started my own starter with flour, water, and letting it sit on my kitchen counter), and i allow long proofs with no knead. The other day, during a heated portion of our bread wars, i made a great sour dough pizza. Recipe below.
180 grams sour dough starter, fed
300 grams non-chlorinated water
8 grams salt
425 grams flour - regular unbleached white flour, and whole wheat (if you prefer, i do, about a cup of wheat flour, rest is white)
incorporate flour and place in a bowl and cover with plastic warp, or if you have a large food container, works well and no waste. let proof for at least 8 hours - 10 to 12 is ideal.
gently remove dough from container onto a floured surface. fold dough very gently into flour (this is a wet dough, you don't want to add much flour, just enough so it's not quite so sticky). Cover with a tea towel and let rest 15 minutes.
quickly divide dough into four, and gently form into balls. cover and let rest for 1 hour.
Using olive oil - either push out our dough onto parchment paper or a silcon baking sheet - you can roll out the dough using olive oil on the roller. This is, again a wet dough, but once flat, will hold it's shape. Top with your favorite toppings - put in a preheated oven - 500 degrees. Pizza stone is great, if you do not have one, use an inverted baking sheet (what i do). Cook 10 to 15 minutes (depending on toppings and your oven).
Pizza toppings pictured here:
three slices of bacon, cooked in cast iron skillet on stove top. brussels sprouts, quartered, tossed in bacon fat, put in 500 degree oven for about 5 minutes, seasoned with salt
crumbled chunks of aged white cheddar
olive oil - both as a layer prior to toppings, and then a drizzle after out of the oven
This was surprisingly good and just a random assortment of items I had in the fridge. Suggested wine pairing: Wautoma Springs Sauvignon blanc.