from How To Bake MORE Bread: Modern Breads/Wild Yeast by Michael Kalanty, Red Seal Books 2016
There is something fantastically rewarding about baking bread that is leavened with wild yeast. Our devotion is fueled by the diversity of complex flavors and satisfying textures that these organisms lend to breads.
Using wild yeast to leaven bread is one of the oldest forms of baking—the first records of raised bread date back to ancient Egypt. The technique was discovered by accident, as many great culinary innovations are. Imagine the shock and delight of the first baker who pulled a fluffy sourdough from the oven instead of the flatbread that was typically produced. An obsession was born; its proliferation throughout the world was powered by both palate and necessity. Today, nearly every culture makes some form of sourdough and each variety reflects the history and products of that region.
Sourdough techniques have been refined over thousands of years. However, working with natural yeast starters can still seem complicated and intimidating.
Wild yeast floats in the air and occurs naturally in the flour we buy, but it must be harnessed and nurtured before it can contribute to a great loaf of bread. Bread baking is governed by microbes and chemical reactions, much of which originates in the ecosystem of a sour starter. Although maintaining a sour culture requires some understanding of these processes, success hinges equally on our skills as caretakers for tiny living organisms.
It’s no wonder that Michael Kalanty has devoted an entire book to working with wild yeast. If this is your first book by Michael, you will soon discover why his approach to bread resonates with aspiring professionals and avid home bakers alike. And if you have read How To Bake Bread, you are now holding a copy of his second book for a reason.
In How To Bake MORE Bread, Michael expands his taxonomy of bread families to tackle the notorious subject of wild yeast doughs. His classification system helps make sense of the vast number of wild yeast breads and how the nuanced characteristics of each dough inform the entire baking process. He begins by teaching us how to capture roving spores of yeast. Then he guides us through the ins and outs of wild yeast starters, fermentation, shaping,proofing, and the final bake. We’re given tools to evaluate doughs at each phase and make confident decisions about what techniques to use when we develop our own recipes.
Michael is a baker, but foremost, he’s a teacher. A passionate student of bread, he has traversed the globe to study different recipes and techniques and is particularly knowledgeable about flavor and palate development. Ultimately, Michael measures his own success by the success of his students, and now his readers. His no-nonsense approach to designing the content of his classes is similar to how a scientist designs a solid experiment. The techniques and recipes he shares have been carefully distilled and tested so they are easy to replicate outside the classroom. At the same time, he also understands that how information is shared is equally as important as the content itself—he transforms book pages into a hands-on experience where we are able to touch our dough and taste our bread.
Foreword appears courtesy of Nathan Myhrvold/The Cooking Lab.© The Cooking Lab, LLC