The photo above shows the dining table in Veg Patch Kitchen piled with some of the things I love about my job. The list of things I love about this job is long… and includes at the very top these things:
I love meeting new people
I love talking with (and at) people
I love teaching people that it is easy to make bread at home and then hearing from them, that yes it is and that they too are now addicted to making bread
I love feeding people
But as well as these things, teaching people to make bread making feeds my obsessions with reading and research. The books on the table are only a selection of my bread library – I have to keep buying bookshelves. I have always loved research, the finding out of new things and trying to know everything that there is to know about a subject. Bread making, whilst it is something that is easy to do at home once you have a grasp of the basics, is also something that you never stop learning about. You will always have something new happen to your loaf, you will (occasionally) continue to have disasters in the form of frisbee loaves (they will still taste good though).
My biggest investment in book form was the Raymond Calvel, The Taste of Bread. This is regarded as one of the definitive books on French bread. But, I have to say that if you have read some of the other books on the table (Hamelman and Reinhart, for example) you will already have a firm grasp of Calvel’s theories of bread making and the importance of autolyse (resting time after mixing so that the flour can fully absorb the water) for a good loaf.
There are a couple of books not in this photo that are worth a mention for their influence on my bread making. This journey towards setting up Veg Patch Kitchen would not have happened without Daniel Stevens’ River Cottage Handbook on Bread. This book with its easy to follow recipes that always work were the inspiration I needed when I was making bricks of bread. James Morton’s Brilliant Bread is another book that I would recommend for those starting out on their bread journey for its interesting recipes that always work.
But if you want to start with sourdough then have a read of Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson and Ken Forkish’s Flour, Water, Salt, Yeast. These will both guide you through the fundamentals to make a good sourdough loaf.
In amongst the books in the photo above is my Komo grain mill and this item is something that is driving me to do more theoretical and practical research. Using freshly milled grain is different to using flour that was milled several weeks before. The flavour is more pronounced, there has been no time for degradation of the nutrients and, more importantly it mixes differently, it feels different and it responds to fermentation differently. It makes wonderful bread. I am loving the experiments with it and showing the difference between freshly milled flour and bagged flour to my students.
For as long as I remember I have relaxed by reading recipe books. When I was a child it was my mum’s copy of The Dairy Book of Family Cookery that absorbed me, now I have my own copy and my own dinner and tea set of the crockery I fell in love with on page 263 when I was about nine years old (thanks Mum and Dad). I didn’t imagine back then that my love of reading recipe books that would lead to a passion and a career.