Posted by: yogavet | January 30, 2011

Baking bread= yoga for the kitchen

I got a new cookbook for Christmas.  I’ve been getting more into bread baking, and I was looking for a book that would teach me more of the ins-and-outs of the craft.  I wanted to make great bread, by hand, intuitively. 

My mother found this book:  “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice”, by Peter Reinhart.  Oh. My. God.  First of all, he goes on for like 50 pages explaining the science of bread… perfect for a nerd like me.  He also is BIG into “pre-ferments”, or part of the dough which is fermented ahead of time with a small amount of yeast, and usually delayed in the refridgerator to get more of the flavor out of the starch.  I’ve already experimented some with sourdough, so I appreciate the effect of mixing in a tasty bit of older dough.  (He’s got a whole section on sourdough that I haven’t even gotten into yet…)

The first bread I made was the basic white sandwich bread.  No muss, no fuss.  It does involve a “sponge” (a liquidy pre-ferment that you make with a small amount of yeast, flour and water, and allow it to ferment at room temperature until it gets HUGE and foamy, then mix it in with the rest of the ingredients), and a bit of egg and honey, but all in all, pretty basic.  It was awesome.  I’ve made it again since then, and for sandwich bread, it can’t be beat. 

Then there were the cinnamin rolls… oh lord…

I did bring more than half of these to work with me (Matt and I don’t need all those!) and they quickly disappeared.  But man.  Cinnabun ain’t got nothin’ on these.

But this weekend I may have outdone myself.  I decided it was time to tackle bagels.  As my sister puts it, “I’ve never met anyone who makes their own bagels.”  Which is exactly why I wanted to.  Demystifying food is my favorite thing to do.  I’ve made my own pickles and butter… time to try my hand at bagels!

Turns out, it’s so worth it.  These were real “water” bagels, meaning they were made with a really stiff dough, they sat overnight in the fridge for a long, cold fermentation, and then they were boiled before they were baked.  Lord have mercy.  These bagels, just cooled from the oven, and slathered with just a little butter (don’t even try putting fake butter on these puppies… that would be sacrilege)… it really doesn’t get any better.

So why all the fuss?  Of course, the thrill of making something from scratch that seems like only “professionals” should be making is pretty cool.  But mostly I love the “zen” of making bread.  I’ve heard it described as “yoga for the kitchen”, which I think is perfect.  You can’t rush kneading the bread, and it’s a physical, repeatative act that’s almost medative.  The fact that it tastes flippin’ amazing ain’t bad either.  🙂

Now I’m off to knead a batch of french bread, while the boy pulverizes black peppercorns for Steak au Poivre.  We sound so civilized, huh?  Don’t be fooled…



  1. This all looks awesome! You make it look so easy! I would love to be your taste tester someday! Love and Miss YOU!

    • You can be my taste tester! Come over anytime 😉

  2. WOW! Am truly impressed. You should try doing salt bagels…put some pretzel salt on top of some of them…yum! I “made” bread yesterday by thawing out some already made dough, but I had to put it in my Hot Cabi towel warmer down in my massage practice because it wouldn’t rise in my 58 degree apartment! Cabi worked great tho! Keep it up and you can have a traveling baker business on the side…

    • Heidi, my house is usually at 60 or so, I hear ya on the slooooow rise. Most times, I try to use it to my advantage. The bread often tastes better if it rises more slowly, so I just double the rising times and stick with the ambient temperature. Of course, I’ve gotten antsy and stuck the dough in a warm oven, too… 😛 Sometimes you just need some bread. 🙂

  3. Ash, these look awesome. I just showed the computer to Brad and he was thoroughly impressed too. I, on the other hand, am barely mastering Turkey Meatloaf tonight. Keep up the posts and the foodgasmic pics! This girl is hungry! 😉

    • mmm turkey meatloaf 🙂 that sounds good too!

  4. More then impressive Ashley! I just may have to get the book for the bagels alone. Were they really good? Bagels in CA on a average suck.
    Are you ready for another visit to SO-CAl?!!

    • Oh my gosh, Susan, they were amazing. Nice and chewy and really authentic. I didn’t even use high gluten flour and barley malt, which the recipe recommended. I just went with regular bread flour, and honey, because I had them – and it was still mind-blowing. If you can’t find good NY-style bagels in CA, I would definitely recommend trying these.
      And I would loooove to come visit SoCal… it was 3 F this AM and it’s not looking any warmer soon. Oh well… think warm thoughts for me!

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