Confessions of a Bread Baker’s Apprentice

I am feeling a little lost after finishing the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge. My last post just seemed so final and shockingly, I still have things left unsaid.  So here, in no particular order, are the final thoughts/reflections/confessions of this Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

10.  When the number of  mail order parcels arriving from King Arthur Flour began to rival those from J Crew,  I knew I was a true bread freak.

9.  I spent $30.25 on a 4 ounce bottle of Fiori di Sicilia . No, that’s not a fancy perfume. It’s an aromatic essence of Sicilian flowers.  It is the flavouring used in authentic Italian Panettone bread.  The recipe uses 1/2 an ounce.  I discovered that I hate Panettone bread.  I still have 3.5 ounces left.  Oh well, the bottle is pretty!

8. I still have not mastered the “windowpane test”.  For the uninitiated, this is a test to determine when the dough has been kneaded enough.  After kneading for awhile, you cut off a small piece of the dough and gently stretch and pull it to see if it will hold a paper-thin translucent membrane, without ripping or falling apart.  Every time I tried this test, my dough ripped.  I continued kneading for several more minutes, but my dough still ripped.  TxFarmer, a fellow BBA Challenger,  achieved perfect windowpanes with every loaf she produced. (see the photo below)  She also produced drool worthy photos and gorgeous breads.  I am more than a little envious!

100%全麦面包 <wbr>– <wbr>取长补短

7.  I speak to the woman on the order desk at King Arthur Flour more often than my own mother.

6.  On of my fellow challengers, named Susie, made many of her breads in the shape of the letter S.  She baked 22 of the 43 breads and hasn’t been heard from since last November.  I’m a little worried about her.

5.  I’m thinking it of requesting the Poilâne Miche pillow for my birthday this year. Bread #33 in our Challenge was the Poilâne-Style Miche.  Poilâne is a bakery in Paris famous the world over for their bread. They make a cushion in the shape of their most famous bread.  It is only $82.23 (that includes shipping).  I can have a loaf of the real bread shipped to me for $62.30, but I figure the pillow will never get stale!

4.  I still have not mastered my slashing skills.  Slashing (also known as scoring) the bread prior to baking is done to allow some of the trapped gasses to escape. The tool I bought to slash with is called a lame but it does not work very well.  Someone told me to try a straight edge razor blade (the old fashioned kind) but I can’t find them at my local pharmacy.  I found a web site that will ship me 1000 of them for 2 cents a blade but I worry that my name will be placed on a “persons of interest” list since I am stockpiling dangerous weapons.

3.  I have bought Peter Reinhart”s new book Artisan breads and am considering baking my way through that one!!

2.  Peter Reinhart  may have replaced Nick Malgierei in my baker fantasy dream.

1.   I  don’t even bat an eyelash when the lady at King Arthur Flour tells me that shipping to Canada is a $25.00 flat fee and all I am ordering is a $5.99 bag of Sir Lancelot High Gluten flour because I need a bagel fix bad!

Thanks again to Nicole of Pinch my Salt for organizing this challenge and of course to Peter Reinhart for writing such a wonderful book.  It truly is a fantastic tutorial for anyone interested in learning to bake their own bread.  I am grateful for all the new bread freak friends I have made along the way.

37 thoughts on “Confessions of a Bread Baker’s Apprentice

  1. Abby

    Love this post! I found that I had specific comments to every one of your reflections (mostly agreeing with you and offering a similar thought), but I’ll leave it with just saying that I loved this post! Mellow Bakers and/or Modern Baker next?!

  2. gaaarp

    Modern Bakers, Modern Bakers, Modern Bakers.

    OK, now that I got that out of my system, great recap of your baking experience!

    But why, oh why, did you have to tell me about the Poilane pillow? How do I make my wife understand why she should pay $80 for a throw pillow for me come Christmastime?!?

    BTW, did you know there is a group baking their way through The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri? He even stops by and comments on our posts from time to time.

    I’d love to bake my way through PR’s new book. Maybe when I finish the ModBak Challenge.

    1. saltandserenity

      Thanks Phyl. I am tempted by Modern Bakers but I think I will bake and blog “freeform” for the summer. I think $80 for a pillow that nevewr gets stale is a bargain!

  3. BumbleVee

    I read that patting on a bit of flour prior to slashing helps…and it did seem to… although, I suppose it depends on what type of top you are trying for on which breads….

    I used a bread knife to do my slashing and it seems to work pretty well… although, I haven’t actually slashed too many loaves… but, so far so good. I’ve also heard some people say they use scalpel blades….

    I’m enjoying my read through your blog…..and, think I must now buy a Peter Reinhart book…..

  4. Mags

    Funny stuff! I’m still a few breads away from finishing but I’m considering doing a “thoughts” post on the BBA Challenge as well.

    Answer to #6: Her passion changed from bread to fingernails.

    Also, you didn’t mention how many dozens of cans of cooking spray or boxes of plastic wrap you went through during the challenge…LOL

    1. saltandserenity

      Thanks Mags! I checked Susie’s blog and you are correct! Fingernails. Huh?? I think I may be switching from bread to ice cream for my summer passion. I guess fingernails would be less fattening! I completely forgot about cooking spray and plastic wrap. I can only imagine the quantity I went through.

  5. Anne Marie

    I love the thoughts idea. Brilliant.

    I took my girl scouts from Texas to camp in Massachusetts and then my husband and I continued to New England. We stopped at the King Arthur store. I was so tempted to fill my husband’s luggage with flour… I did manage to squeeze in one large bag of Sir Lancelot, because I am addicted to the Mellow Bakers bialys. Did I hear mellow bakers mentioned earlier in the comments????? Come on, come on. You cannot stop blogging about breads, you are clearly addicted.

    1. saltandserenity

      Thanks Anne Marie! I am so jealous that you actually went to King Arthur!! I am tempted to join Mellow Bakers but I think I will just bake and blog freeform and see where it takes me. I’m thinking of pulling out my ice cream maker and creating!

  6. Oggi

    Cindy, I love your post-BBAC post.

    I’m also going to start baking my way to PR’s ABED at my own pace in the next few days. Maybe we can compare results if you blog about them.;p

  7. misterrios

    Wonderful recap of the challenge. I actually stopped doing windowpanes and studied the texture of the dough instead. Also, my lame is a double-edged razor blade inserted into a wooden coffee stirrer. Works like a charm but remember that the outside of the bread has to be tense like a membrane. That’s why shaping is so important.

    BTW- when I was at Poilane last summer, I was dead set on buying a pillow. However, I didn’t see them at all! That’s because I thought they were breads!

  8. Chelsea

    I wish TxFarmer’s blog was in english!! I would love to know what is written about the pictures…they are beautiful!!

    Also liked your final thoughts about the BBA Challenge!!

  9. Sara

    Love this. I’m with you on the elusiveness of windowpane. And King Arthur. Luckily for me I live in New England. While that doesn’t totally erase shipping costs (though I can at least take advantage of some of the special offers) it does come ASAP.

    I have PR’s whole grain breads book–I want to bake out of that as well–if anyone can get you to love whole grain bread, he can! (I do like whole grain bread, but not as much as I should).

    I am still full of regret that I was at the Poilane store in PARIS and didn’t buy any bread. Well…I guess I will just have to make another trip to Paris.

    1. saltandserenity

      Thanks Sara,

      I also have the whole grains book and am thinking of tackling that one next. I can’t believe you left Poilane without buying a bread!! You are lucky to live in New England.

  10. Susie

    GREAT post.
    I had asked you on my blog if you had finished but I came to see for myself. You did it. Congratulations.
    YES, I went to nail polishing. LOL. I have so many hobbies I don’t know what to do next. Actually I’m back into quilting.
    I’m on recipe #24.
    What have you been up to?
    I’ll have to REfollow your blog. 🙂

  11. Judy

    I just happen to stumble upon this post from Google. LOVE IT! I am thinking of joining BBA, but am already busy with the “Healthy Breads in 5 Minutes a Day” baking group. (No knead breads)

    I have to laugh at what you wrote, I am also a “bread head!”


  12. Mary J

    Love your post. You must be a fan of the “David Letterman Show”.
    He does a “Top 10 List” of various subjects, frequently on his show.
    Take Care. I’m sure I will be feeling this way in another year when
    my “Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day” baking challenge is over.

  13. Chris

    I’ve tried slashing bread with various implements, previously to reading BBA I’d used my filleting knife, which is damn sharp. Never used a lame’.

    However, I’ve found the “worlds’ sharpest knife”, which is serrated like a bread knife but with quite small serrations, works really well. It only needs to be dragged gently across the dough.

  14. prof

    I have tried Peter Rinehart’s recipe for baguettes (p.191-194) of Bread Maker’s Apprentice. But my breads do not have the pig, uneven holes of the photos of his books. I follow his recipe exactly, even make my dough a bit wetter. What is wrong?

    1. saltandserenity

      I had much better success with Peter Reinhart’s Pain à l’Ancienne baguette (recipe also in BBA). I got a more open crumb (bigger holes!) and the flavour and texture were much better than his regular baguette recipe. Try it.

  15. Stephanie

    I am considering baking my way through this book too! I have a couple of his books and I bake about three loaves of bread a week already but I often stick to the same recipes over and over.

    I pretty much squealed when I read the last part about there being a 25.00 flat rate shipping from KA flour to canada. I thought that they didn’t ship here!!! oooohhhh so excited.

    1. saltandserenity

      You will learn so much baking your way through this book. Peter Reinhart is a wonderful teacher. Just make sure to clear some space on your credit card for everything you will want to order from King Arthur. When you order the large size bags of flour and the dough whisk you will then know you have become a true bread freak. Have fun!

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