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Bread, Boules & Brothers

by MsNickel on January 26, 2012

See that face? He’s maybe 6 or 7, and not happy that he has to sit with the “baby”. That being me, two years younger, and happy as a clam to be with my “big” brother.

I am happy to say that over the years, he softened that look and became my defender, my confident, my teacher, my friend. Oh, believe me: we had the struggles of the teen years and the estrangement of the 20’s, but that is a story for another time.

My brother is one smart guy. There is nothing he cannot do, and if he wants to learn something, he does it from the ground up. Interested in pottery, he decided to build a kiln so he could really understand the process. He machined all the parts for it too.

When our parents aged, and as the sibling living closest to them, their care became a big part of his life. We talked often, and as events and illnesses progressed, we became closer as the tough decisions had to be made. I could go on for pages about Jim: his kindness, his commitment, his never give up attitude, but this is about us & bread.

He gently prodded me for years to quit working and when I finally did, he was delighted. Perhaps even more than me. Pundits say that the bond between siblings can be stronger than that of parent to child. I don’t know about that, but I know that there are few people I would rather spend time with than Jim.

One of the first things I did when I quit working was to start a sourdough starter. In another life, one from a million years ago I had one on my sink for years. I baked bread every day, for a lot of people, and although I didn’t always use sourdough as a leaven, I used it often. A twitter-found friend sent me some starter. It sat in the fridge while I was in Italy saving, er rewarding myself.

When I returned I fed it. I dusted off a copy of Bread Alone, and started looking at the internet and some some sites devoted to sourdough. I started to bake. And take notes. And bake. So much bread! My neighbors and friends benefited from this obsession.

Somewhere in the middle of all this, Jim came down to visit. We talked about how basic this bread was, how elemental: just flour & water, and some patience and a fine loaf can be had. He left with a portion of my starter, and the need to know if he could make an eatable loaf from the 700 lbs of hard red winter wheat he has stored. Of course he could. Now he bakes a loaf very few days, using his own stone ground whole wheat flour, and makes a great loaf using a sourdough starter. You can see his bread pages here. Jim’s Bread. Make sure you scroll all the way down to see the lovely whole wheat loaves.

I have thought a lot about bread and why it held such significance for me. My dad baked bread every few days until right before he died. My mother collected bread crumbs. I wrote about baking bread & my Dad and Mom here.

I have been following a number of the #baketogether group on twitter for some time. This months’ peasant boule challenge from Abby Dodge’s bake together seemed a perfect way to refresh the starter after the holidays and bake a loaf. I decided that I would do a breadcrumb loaf using sourdough as my main leavening agent.  This loaf uses left over breadcrumbs for texture & color.

I baked the loaf three times. Two are shown in the picture below. The one on the top was baked using a ring to hold the slightly wetter dough. The one on the bottom was a dryer dough from a long ferment time in the fridge, and was free form.

Bread Crumb Bread

Make a sponge using:

1 ¾ cups starter on the up-(approximately 3-4 hours after feeding)
1 ¾ cups unbleached white flour
¾ cup water

Mix sponge well, and let ferment 5-6 hours

When the sponge is ready, stir it to remove air and put it in a stand mixer bowl with

½ c coarse bread crumbs
2 3/4 c unbleached white flour
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp baking powder

*2 tsp salt

Mix for a minute, then let rest in the bowl for 5 min. Add *2 teas salt and knead on low for 6 minutes. Put in an oiled container-I use a plastic shoe box, or the proofing bowl. Let rise for 3 hours with folds at 60 min & 2 hours.

Punch down, and roll into ball. Rest for 5 minutes. Shape the dough into a boule, and use a spring form pan ring to hold it, if the dough is on the wet side, on a silpat covered sheet. ( You can retard at this point, and ferment over night in the fridge.)

Let rise for an hour.

Preheat oven to 450, and prepare it for steam.( use a shallow pan on oven floor) When the oven is hot, make quick slices in the top of the bread, and then slide the sheet with the boule into the oven.

Put a small amount of cold water in the shallow pan. Watch out for the steam. Quickly close the oven door and turn the oven down to 400. Bake for 25 minutes, or until 200 degrees inside (use insta read). Let cool for at least an hour before slicing, if you can.


Janis January 27, 2012 at 3:26 am

Ohmygod I love you and this post. How can it be that I have never met you face to face and yet I feel as if we have known each other for years? Beautiful Boule.

MsNickel January 27, 2012 at 8:16 am

Sisters of another time, my friend. :) Thanks!

Barbara | Creative Culinary January 27, 2012 at 7:05 am

What a lovely story Sharon and something I so envy. I have difficult family relationships; not unusual in a family identified with alcoholism and I miss not having the bond you share with your brother Who does sound pretty amazing…but then so are you.

Gorgeous bread.

MsNickel January 27, 2012 at 8:15 am

Barb, you have us. You are so an importnat part of this “twitter family”.

abby dodge January 27, 2012 at 7:12 am

The bonds between family and bread.. Beautifully written. And the freeform boule looks fantastic. So happy you bake with us all and shared your story.

MsNickel January 27, 2012 at 8:14 am

It’s a group that I am happy to be with! Thank you for keeping it going.

Lisa | Dust with Flour January 31, 2012 at 6:39 pm

You’ve written a beautiful story and baked some lovely loaves. Thank you. I’ve never heard of using breadcrumbs in a loaf, but why not? Very cool.

MsNickel January 31, 2012 at 7:21 pm

Thank you! Thought it was the best way to honor both Mom & Dad.

foodwanderingss February 1, 2012 at 5:15 pm

Your bread looks gorgeous! Such a beautiful loaf!!

Jenny February 8, 2012 at 9:35 am

Beautiful story and gorgeous bread. I just won sourdough starter kit from King Arthur — six degrees of separation from V. Mountain (I’m icywit) to sourdough bread connections.

RJK July 24, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Bread (and Wine): not a bad idea for a Last Supper. But be careful whom you kiss . . . or, better, who kisses you.

Eva Sandoval August 13, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Drooling here, Sharon. Drooling.

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