One of my favorite breads to bake is a sourdough walnut loaf from Maggie Glezer’s “Artisan Baking.” The crumb has great flavor, the walnuts add wonderful richness and a hint of bitterness, and the crust is sometimes amazing. In the middle of a recent week, seeing that I’d have time for baking on the upcoming weekend, I started feeding my sourdough starter twice a day to bring it up to proper strength. Alas, at too late of an hour to get more (or, more precisely, after I had decided I was done shopping for the weekend), I discovered that my walnut inventory was too low to make the walnut loaf.
And so I needed a different recipe. I looked in the index of “Artisan Baking” for other sourdough recipes. It had to be sourdough, after all of the work feeding the starter, commercial yeast wouldn’t do. As I browsed the index, “Finnish rye” jumped out at me. I had never made it and it looked interesting: a good dose of whole grains (rye flour, whole wheat flour, and cracked rye grain), some molasses, and some flax seed for extra nutritional zip. Even though it was mid-July, a time in much of the United States when hearty breads don’t fit the climate, Berkeley’s fog allows mid-summer heartiness.
Like all of the other breads I have tried from this outstanding book, the Finnish Rye was a winner, even though my loaf spread out too much because of a slight under-addition of flour. The flavor was deep and dark, the texture interesting because of the whole grains. It was delicious toasted with a slather of mustard, a slice of cheddar, a slice of tomato, and a tangle of homemade sauerkraut.
Glezer’s book has taught me a lot and helped me bake some amazing loaves (one of them has been a tasty part of my lunch this week, a rosemary-laced focaccia-like loaf). Although some breads, like the ciabatta seem like they are far too wet during the fermentation and proofing processes to ever become a loaf of bread, they always seem to work out. I also appreciate how all of the ingredients in all of the recipes are listed in grams, ounces and volume. It is so much easier to put a mixing bowl on the scale and add ingredients until the weight has changed by the right amount. This is especially great to sticky ingredients like molasses, honey and malt syrup, which can make a huge mess of a measuring cup. If you are looking to increase your bread baking skills, or just looking for some variety, give this book a try.