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Get Your Hands Into the Stuff of Life

Making bread a matter of practice, patience for home bakers

Column by Christina Ward
Photography by Rob Gustafson

Four. Water. Salt. Yeast. Bread. The “stuff” of life. It is an old adage in all cooking that the simpler and fewer the ingredients the more important technique is. Bread baking is the quintessential expression of this maxim. Successful bread making is wholly about technique. Yes, there are subtleties achieved through changes in the types of flour, salt, yeast, and even water used in a recipe. And of course, you can boost flavor with herbs, fats, and other tasty additions. But at its core, bread is about the toothsome bite of the crust and the soft chew of the crumb—qualities only achieved through proper technique.

The revolution in bread baking of the past decade is to look backwards at how our ancestors made bread. With science at our fingertips, we now know how that alluring mixture of flour, water, salt, and yeast behave together and how to better utilize the two unmentioned ingredients needed for all bread: time and temperature.

I spoke with Gene Webb, owner of North Shore Boulangerie. Before following his dream of baking French-style breads, he studied yeast … Read More

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