I’ll never be a BBB at this rate!

I’m doomed… I’ll never be a

Bread Baking Babe/Buddy (BBB)

Warning: post contains pathetic whinging about bread making techniques and recipes as well as criticism of bread baking icon Peter Reinhart. If you are a Peter Reinhart fan, please read no further lest you be overly offended.

wild yeast Some time last month (or was it the month before?), when I saw that the Bread Baking Babes were planning to make something with wild yeast, I was excited and thought I would apply to become a BBB. Because I captured yeast last summer and have been doggedly keeping it going since then with a LOT of trials, shrieks, failures and tears of frustration. I’ve just recently managed to tame it (sort of) into producing NON-sour bread.

One of the things that kept me from murdering my wild starter was the thought of becoming a babe. And at last, the recipe was announced!

In her post entitled “SourDough: Poilane-Style Miche”, Tanna (My Kitchen in Half Cups) wrote:

How intimidated are you by pages and pages of a recipe? Do your eyes cross when you see more than two paragraphs? Do you suffer brain fade when a glance shows you the recipe goes for a second, third page?

Why yes, as it happens: very intimidated; they do; I do. :lalala: In fact, I suffer brain fade when a cross-eyed glance shows me that the recipe goes longer than the bottom of the page. (Although I’m not quite as susceptible as my sister, who has problems with any recipe that says “meanwhile”.)

Here is the recipe in question.

I’m doomed…

Tanna goes on to tell of her triumph (you really should look at the beautiful bread she and the other babes made!)

I’m telling you this is really easy 5 minutes a day, for really impressive bread!

Easy, she says? Ha. I can’t even manage to get past “barm”. I thought I’d skim ahead to see if it got any better and got stopped firmly at “seed culture”. Barm?? Seed culture?!? Augh!!!

Alas. My eyes have glazed over several times as I’ve tried to read and reread the recipe for this month (if you can call it “rereading” when only a few of the words have been comprehended on earlier attempts). And I wouldn’t say that I’m entirely faint-hearted about bread baking. It’s not like I haven’t made a lot of bread! Yeasted, unyeasted, wild-yeasted… a LOT of bread.

I’m doomed to be a Bread Baking Crybaby…

You see, it’s this deep seated prejudice I have.

Not only do I glaze over when the recipe goes on for longer than a paragraph; I also glaze over when I see that the recipe is in The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart.

Am I really the only person who doesn’t absolutely adore everything that Peter Reinhart has written? I admit that I’ve only read two of his books. The first one, Crust and Crumb, gave me the pip. (Formulas instead of recipes? Oh please. Prodigal use of plastic wrap and cooking spray? Yikes. Recommendation to use expensive parchment sheets instead of rolled parchment paper? Rrrrrrrr.) The second one was The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. After hearing how fabulous it was from several sources, I got it out of the library. And got in trouble for sighing and hissing as I read it in bed before going to sleep. Did I try any of the recipes (formulae?)? Nope. Too prejudiced.

But the bread that the Babes made does look awfully good. So I tried to read the recipe again. And got as far as:

5. Put the dough on a floured counter and knead the dough […] Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

Lightly oil??? For French bread?? Wait. What am I saying? For any bread? Oiling the rising bowl is just not necessary… (read more here)

I know. I could just leave the oiling of the bowl out. But what about the sourness? Everyone says that the bread is a little bit sour. Nope. I’ve worked way too hard over the past year to get our wild bread to stop being sour.

See?? I’m doomed…

But maybe you’re not?

Bread Baking Babes/Buddies
Bread Baking Babes: Poilane-Style Miche (© Lien, notitievanlien.blogspot.com)

Sher (What Did You Eat?) is hosting this month’s Bread Baking Babes/Buddies task. Herculean task, I should say… she wrote:

May 19, 2008

Bread Baking Babes: Poilane-Style Miche

[…] If you would like to join us being a Bread Baking Buddy here’s how!!!

You have 14 days from our posting date to bake the bread and post about it on your blog with a link to the Kitchen of the Month’s (that’s me) post about the bread. That would mean that your post date would be June 2 [2008].

For complete details on how to become a BBB, please go to:

See the babes’ Poilâne-style bread:


This entry was posted in BBBabes, bread - yeasted & unyeasted, food & drink, whine on by .

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10 responses to “I’ll never be a BBB at this rate!

  1. Glenna

    Elizabeth–Fantastic post! I loved it! Thanks also for being so honest about how you felt about the book. I’ve enjoyed Reinhart’s book so far but I have that moment too sometimes when I read a cookbook that everyone goes nuts over and I say to myself “What am I missing here? I don’t get it.” Personally, I’m also looking forward to baking out of The Bread Bible by Baranbaum. I have her cookbook The Cake Bible and it is absolutely fantastic.

  2. MyKitchenInHalfCups

    Dear Bread Baking Crybaby,
    That is funny. Great post!
    I think without the pull of the group, I am a much less adventuresome bread baker. Baking with the group takes me places that I wouldn’t go by myself. Every recipe we’ve done has surprised me and taught me something new about bread.
    What most surprised me about the Miche was the lack of the usual whole wheat bitterness. So much whole wheat usually gives an unpleasant bitterness and it’s just not in this bread.
    Happy Baking.

  3. Bellini Valli

    I made a simple white bread loaf this weekend and that is about as adventurous as it is going to get around this ranch. Kudos to you for joining the Babes and baking up a storm Elizabeth :D

  4. ejm Post author

    Well, I’m glad I haven’t antagonized everyone with my remarks about Reihhart. I know that some people consider him to be THE bread baker.

    I have been meaning to look at Beranbaum’s “Bread Bible”! Thanks for the reminder, Glenna. I have just placed a hold on it at the library. (This is the method I use to decide whether I plan to buy the book.)

    While I’ve never noticed bitterness with 100% wholewheat, I have noticed that it can be very “healthy”, MKIHC. By “healthy”, I mean a little bit door-stoppish and “good-for-you” tasting rather than just good. And I must say that it has been ages since I’ve made a 100% wholewheat loaf. I generally add at least some all-purpose flour. (But I really like the tips on baking with wholegrain flours in Laurel Robertson’s cookbook “Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book: A Guide to Whole-Grain Breadmaking”.)

    Well done, Val. Simple is always great. Although, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Poilane bread is pretty simple too – I suspect it’s just the way the recipe is written that makes it seem so complex. Maybe someone will translate it into English. ;-) Then maybe I will be able to join the BBBs (alas, until then, I fear I’ll remain a BreadBakingcryBaby.)


  5. Baking Soda

    Great post Elizabeth and rest assured, we used some “original” language describing the way this recipe (and not only this one..) is written. I’ve been looking at the sourdough recipes since I got the book but never got around to it for the exact same reasons you mention here. Mr. P’s way of choosing his words is rather eh confusing?
    We’ll cheer you on!

  6. Raya

    Some 15 years ago, M. Poilâne was in Amsterdam, on the occasion of a publicity event organized by the French tourist office Maison de France. At the time, I was working for one of our commercial daytime tv programmes, and was asked to go meet M. Poilâne in front of the camera. So here he was, the sourdough bread deity, with longish, dark grey hair, slim and short in posture, and very large in presence and personality. From the fridge in the main kitchen of hotel The Grand he produced a modest tupperware box containing, as it turned out, some of his starter. With me present, he made a dough, all the time philosofing about ‘the living thing, this miche, the ‘laib’, fondling the shaped boule… It’s been an experience never to be forgotten! Just wanted to share this with you, since his name so prominently lives on in his bread!

  7. ejm Post author

    Ha!! I KNEW that it could be done simply. Thanks, Raya, for that wonderful description of your meeting with the great man himself. I always got the sense that Poilâne was on the level. Not that Reinhart isn’t on the level! He just desperately needs an editor to simplify his really really overly complicated instructions. (Not to mention that he should probably dispense with his prodigal use of oil and plastic.)

    Thanks for the translations of the Reinhart recipe on your site, Baking Soda. I may still try this – but not in time to be a BBB and because the “barm” calls for SO much flour, I might try doing just a half recipe.

    It’s not as if we need a humungous loaf for just the two of us. (I’ve heard that a Poilâne loaf is giant and may last a week. It better, considering the price. Last I heard it was $14 for a Poilâne loaf and that was BEFORE the price of wheat and petrol skyrocketed)


  8. sher

    LOL!! I loved reading this post! And you are not the only one who has some issues about Peter! He does write in a way that can be a tad…….long. I wanted to cut the stuff about “refreshing”, but figured I should keep it in just case people wanted to know how to do that(frankly, the way he wrote it gave me a headache, and I tried to simplifiy it to no avail). But, the recipe is really easy, it just looks complicated–because of Peter, I think! But, we Babes are not bound by his dictates. He even says to use the starter YOU want with this bread, not his. And there’s always next month!!!!!! Hugs!

  9. ejm Post author

    I can’t tell you how relieved I am to see that you are laughing, Sher. I still can’t quite believe that the recipe is easy – even though I have claimed that the wild bread I’ve made is not difficult at all. But the part of me that does believe it is easy, is the part that knows that bread-making isn’t exactly rocket science.

    I think I wouldn’t be so ticked off with Reinhart if he weren’t so elitist and would just stick to standardized names for things: as in “stiff starter” or “buildup” instead of “barm”; “starter” instead of “seed culture”; “recipe” instead of “formula”; “zero oil” instead of “cooking spray”; “lid” or “damp teatowel” instead of “plastic wrap”; etc. etc. ad nauseum. He seems to be wanting to keep the whole thing on the mystic level instead of admitting that pretty much anybody can bake great bread with very little effort and very few ingredients. That’s the thing I really liked about Laurie Colwin’s chapter entitled ‘Bread Baking Without Agony’ in “Home Cooking: A Writer in the Kitchen”. I believe she wrote it to dispell the fear that some of us have about making things that seem to us to be too difficult. I read the chapter and thought, Hey!! I bet I could bake bread too…. Chances are that if I had read Reinhart’s book first, I would still be buying bread from the bakery.

  10. katie

    Dear BBcB,
    Well said.
    BBB (Bad, Bad, Babe) aka Babe on Hiatus
    To think I sold my house just to avoid this one….. What lengthes so as not to admit fear!

    Okay, Katie, stop making me laugh out loud (although, I did wonder if the time of the house sale wasn’t just a little toooo convenient. :-)) -Elizabeth


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