Baking Bread Part 1: Pâte Fermentée

I started baking bread when I was 14, when I became a vegetarian. I’ve gone on and off with baking over the last 40 years. Sometimes I thought there wasn’t time. But there CAN be time if you break it up. I never got a bread machine == that’s not because I am a purist; whatever helps you get *fresh* bread on the table is great. My Kitchenaid works fine for me. The main reason I don’t usually do it by hand is because it seems like less to clean up, but I’m not really sure if it’s true.

One day this week, we made bread on a work day. Here’s how it was possible. I made up this starter one day and kept it in the fridge. Another day at lunch I mixed up the dough. Luckily, Kelly came home and shaped it up to rise and we baked it that night. If you do things in steps, it feels much easier. I promise you too can do it!

Another way (maybe less crazy) might be to make the pre-ferment on one weekend and make the bread the next weekend. You can freeze it.

The main thing is– people make a lot about how hard it is, how long it takes and how exact you have to be. I find bread to be super forgiving and resilient. So go ahead and give it a try and get some hot *fresh* bread on the table—with real butter, of course.


For the Pre-Ferment (Pâte Fermentée):

This recipe is from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. Peter Reinhardt is my dough guru. Except I only used the directions for the Kitchenaid. That’s what I do.

1 1/8 cups (5 ounces) unbleached bread flour

1 1/8 cups (5 ounces) unbleached flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon instant yeast
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons (6-7 ounces) water, at room temperature

  1. Use a kitchen scale (a measuring cup works too, but the scale is more accurate) to measure your dry ingredients into the bowl of an electric mixer.

  1. Stir together the flours, salt and yeast
    in the bowl of the electric mixer. Add ¾ cup of the water, with the paddle attachment until everything comes together and makes a coarse ball. Adjust the flour or water according to need so that the dough is neither too sticky nor too stiff. (He says it’s better to err on the sticky side).

  1. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter, knead for 4-6 minutes. Or knead in mixer with the dough hook for about 4 minutes or till the dough is soft and pliable, but not sticky. The internal temp should be 77-81 degrees F.

  1. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling around to coat with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and ferment at room temperature for 1 hour or until it swells to 1 ½ times its original size.

  1. Remove the dough from the bowl, Knead lightly to de-gas, and return it to the bowl, covering the bowl with plastic wrap. Place the bowl in the refrigerator overnight. You can keep this in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze it in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

This is what you are going for…you will use this as starter for your fabulous bread!

Stay tuned for part 2 tomorrow!


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