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.
So we’ve tasted and read, and tasted and baked and baked and baked. We offer a few breads, largely through Gilmanton’s Own Market. We sell Sourdough Bread there regularly. And a wonderful Greek Bread. And a lovely, slightly sweet multigrain. We do our breads in shapes that allow you to do sandwiches easily, but bread can be used in so many other ways.
We have other related products: Sourdough Bread Cubes (useful for stuffings, bread puddings, croutons, more). Market Macaroons — tasty coconut and chocolate cookies. Maple Granola using local maple syrup. We can do pita and naan to order. And who knows what’s next!
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:
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 sourdough 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, and I only bake a few loaves each week (generally available at Gilmanton’s Own Market Fridays and Saturdays). But it’s what I want to eat. That’s my test for what I like to bake.
Sourdough New York Rye (with seeds): We start with a sourdough 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. Available in Gilmanton’s Own Market, often fresh, but also in the freezer.
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. We often bake it for the Gilmanton’s Own Market Saturday market.
Greek Bread — “Horiatiko Psomi”: If you travel around Greece, especially the villages, you are bound to fall in love with the bread you are served at just about every meal 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 with a nice crispy crust. 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.
We use a mixture of bread flour and a little of a darker flour. Of course yeast and water. A little milk, a little olive oil, a little honey, a little salt. Simple. Delicious.
“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