We’re not professional bakers. We’ve never been trained. But we love wonderful breads, especially classics from different regions of the world. Our favorites are the basic bread of France and Italy — think of people coming home from the baker in the morning with a baguette under the arm. But there’s also nothing like homemade pita, naan, and others that are a whole different experience when you bake them at home.
Most of our breads take multiple days to bake. It’s a technique that allows the flavors to develop.
So we’ve tasted and read, and tasted and baked and baked and baked. We only bake what we eat. We offer a few breads, largely through Gilmanton’s Own Market when the Market is open. We keep the Market freezer stocked with some of these breads, too, with instructions for how to refresh them in the oven — they come out tasting fresh-baked.
If you want to order specific breads, feel free to contact me directly by writing to email@example.com or through my Facebook site https://www.facebook.com/jonesmillhouse/. I’ll also announce what I’m baking anyway for Gilmanton’s Own through Facebook. This season I tend to do my main bread baking for the Sunday Market.
I’ve tried a lot of bread flours, by the way, and I’ve settled on the Great River Organic Milling Company’s Lily White bread flour. I’ve chosen it not just because it comes from a beautiful part of Wisconsin, where I lived for 31 years, but because it’s great flour I discovered in an open-kitchen bakery in Washington, DC, it’s non GMO organic hard red spring wheat (sorry, people who want gluten-free; it’s a little higher in gluten which gives it the great volume and texture). And the people seem nice.
Descriptions of our main breads below:
Wild Yeast (Sourdough) Bread: We eat this pretty much every day. Yes, we know you can buy “sourdough bread” at the supermarket, and you can buy sourdough starters. But we’ve made ours with a lengthier process that results in an amazing bread.
The rising agent in sourdough bread is a starter made with a lactobacillus, a type of bacteria that is our friend (that is, not the kind that makes us sick). In this case, I have followed the suggestions of Peter Reinhart, a master American baker and writer. First, I created a barm sponge starter, using flour, malt, honey, raisin water, and water over a 5-day period of sitting and refreshing. This is what we save in the fridge, and have to refresh regularly so it stays alive. It’s called barm, which is a word referring to the foam that forms at the top of fermented alcoholic beverages, because that’s exactly what it creates if it sits for a week. Before I use it if I’ve let it sit, I skim off the little layer of booze on top.
When I’m ready to make wild yeast bread, I use the refreshed barm (remembering to put some back in the fridge — don’t want to go through that process again!) to create the actual sourdough starter, by mixing the barm with bread flour and a bit of water and letting it sit around on the counter then in the fridge until the next day. Then I mix together the starter with more bread flour and a tiny bit of salt and sugar and also water, and let that sit for a few hours. Then I shape the loaves, and let them sit in the kitchen for a few hours, then in the fridge over night. Finally, the next morning, I bake.
What a smell in the kitchen! The result is a glorious bread with a crunchy crust and a soft tasty inside and a marvelous crumb (lots of tiny holes). It tastes slightly, only slightly sour.
Sure, this is a long process. But it’s what I want to eat. That’s my test for what I like to bake.
Wild Yeast (Sourdough) New York Rye (with seeds): We start with a wild yeast base, but incorporate rye flour a little cocoa for color, and other goodies plus caraway seeds (of course) and end up with a bread that would make any pastrami happy. It’s a 3-day process, but so worth it.
Sourdough Starter: Have you ever wanted to make your own sourdough bread, but don’t want to do all the work it takes to make a first-rate starter? Ours has been going for a few years now — it makes delicious bread, bagels, etc. And did you know that the same starter will taste different if you refresh it in different locations? That’s true, because it depends on local yeasts. So our starter is New Hampshire (Gilmanton) born and bred. Contact us if you would like a 3-cup container of starter, which is more than enough to get going with your own creations!
Challah: Challah is a delicious eggy, slightly sweet bread (from honey as well as a little sugar) that is traditionally eaten by Jews on the Sabbath and holidays. It is always braided (we use 6-strand braids) except for the New Year, when it is round and studded with raisins. But it is well-known in the larger community as a great bread for eating, for sandwiches and especially, as the best bread in the world to use for French Toast.
Multigrain: We searched until we found a recipe for multigrain that tasted just as we imagined … beautiful crumb (great for sandwiches, toast, whatever), some little crunches and texture from the different grains, and a little sweetness. It reminds us a bit of the utterly wonderful “granary loaf” we always buy when we’re in England.
We start with a biga– a pre-ferment to bring out the great bread taste, then add white and whole wheat flours and different grains: oats, polenta, wheat berries, quinoa, brown rice — it varies a little depending on our mood. Sweetened with a little honey. Baked in rectangular loaves.
Country Bread: This is a lovely bread that’s great for sandwiches or whatever use you want. It has a little honey, a little olive oil, a little milk in it so it’s really delicious. We base our recipe on a classic Greek country bread that is served at just about every meal in the Greek countryside with the amazing Greek starters — Greek salad, cheeses, hummos, feta cheese, tzatziki (yogurt and cucumber), Melanzanosalata (eggplant dip) and so many others. This is a great-textured mostly white bread. A rich taste that complements these dishes, and a substantial texture that stands up to holding these dips. We came home from Greece and hung on to the memories by searching for a recipe to replicate the bread at home.
French, Italian, or Sicilian Bread: These are different versions of the nice, tasty white bread. They are named differently according to the baking customs of the different countries — more or less oil, slightly different flours, and different shapes. When we bring them into Gilmanton’s Own the labels show all the ingredients. We just like to mix it up and offer varieties.
Classic Rosemary, Oil, & Salt Focaccia: What a delicious Italian flat bread. We do only the classic version — not loaded up with lots of stuff, but enough olive oil, rosemary, and salt to smell irresistible and make you lick your fingers. And it has those cute little indentations!
Bagels: These are (we say, modestly), the best bagels you will get anywhere around here. They are cooked in the classic way — boiled, then baked to get that characteristic texture and flavor. We use a wild yeast base, so they are very tasty. We do “Everything” and “Nothing” (plain) bagels. They are almost always available in the freezer compartment at Gilmanton’s Own Market. Just warm them up for a few minutes in a medium oven and they are good-as-fresh.
Pita: Pita is a lovely and ancient pocketed flatbread that is baked throughout the Mideast. It is used to scoop up dips, used as a wrap, and for many other purposes. Although it is increasingly common throughout the U.S., if you don’t live near a Mideastern food market in a big city you have probably never tasted it fresh baked. If that’s the case, you will be delighted and surprised by the beautiful bread flavor. Very different from the tasteless versions sold in supermarkets. Almost always available in the freezer compartment at Gilmanton’s Own. Just pop them in the toaster straight out of the freezer and they are good-as-fresh.
Corn Muffins: There are many versions of corn muffins. In the South, folks believe it’s a crime against humanity to put in any sweetness. In some places corn muffins demand hot peppers. The ones that show up in supermarkets and not-great-catering establishments tend to be super-sweet and greasy. These are done from classic New England versions: course-ground cornmeal, so a little chew to them, some sweetness but not a lot. Buttermilk and butter to give them richness. And we bake them in flat round tins (some people call them “muffin tops”) so you can eat them as they are, split them and toast or griddle them, pop a poached egg on them, heat them and pour chili over them … whatever you like. We find them addictive.
“THE WAR ON GLUTEN” — IS IT A JUST WAR?
We’ve long been curious about the questions arising around gluten. Celiac is a serious disease. But the number of people without celiac disease who feel they do better without gluten has been rising. Then there are those who feel they can’t do without their gluten-infused bread, and even those relatively high in gluten — breads with “bread flour,” for example, or of course bagels, that are baked with an extra dose of gluten to give them that bagel texture.
A recent article in Science Magazine — a very distinguished journal of science research — recently reviewed the research, and what it shows is very interesting. If you are worried about gluten, there are actually quite a few other food items that contain what could be the offending substances that cause the nasty symptoms, FODMAPs: “onions and garlic; legumes; milk and yogurt; and fruits including apples, cherries, and mangoes.” They had to do their experimental research very carefully, because of placebo effects — if people think a particular food will hurt them, they may feel bad when they consume that food even if it isn’t actually the cause, just as if they think a pill will make them feel better, they might feel better upon taking the pill.
There are no definitive answers yet. But it’s great to have good research going on rather than just experiential anecdotes. We need to make sure that people who need to avoid certain foods for their health should do so, and others who may be making their nutrition more difficult on themselves learn what’s what.
See the article from Science here: WaronGluten