TableBread: Thank you Eric for joining us here at the Table. First off why don’t you fill us all in on how long you have been baking bread and also, how long you’ve been blogging about various bread topics.
Eric: My pleasure, Lewis.
My interest in bread baking goes back about 30 years when I acquired a sourdough starter from a friend’s grandmother. I think it’s kind of funny that I’m not really into cooking that much, but I’ve always loved bread baking.
Breadtopia.com is celebrating its first birthday this month.
TB: Wonderful, congratulations on your first year! What gave you the inspiration to start making videos about baking bread? Why not just write about the process?
Eric: I don’t remember really. It just seemed like a good idea. A way to add value to the site. I’m really glad I’ve gone that route, a lot of people have expressed their appreciation.
TB: Since starting your site what has been your most memorable moment?
Eric: It’s really the sum total of all the wonderful feedback and encouragement I’ve received from a lot of great people. It must be that bread bakers are just the upper crust of humanity. Sorry. [That’s ok, we laughed :)]
An amazing thing happened just a couple days ago. I received an order from someone in
TB: Wow, that is amazing!
Recently there has been a real explosion of foodie sites in the blogosphere, especially with bread. How do you think this is helping/hurting the bread industry or the “breadosphere” as you have put it?
Eric: One of the things I was hoping to contribute to, in however a small way, is the growing trend towards home cooking and do-it-yourself projects. The commercial bread industry is very aware of demand for more healthy and wholesome breads. Wonder Bread production has folded in some major
TB: As a small independent baker, are you happy to see large chain retailers and grocers baking their own versions of artisan bread or do you feel this hurts the ability of the independent baker to survive an already small niche market?
Eric: There’s always going to be enough people with discerning taste buds and an appreciation for the craft of truly hand made bread to keep a skilled baker busy. Panera bread is an enormously popular and successful franchise but at the same time we see quality artisan bakeries thriving like never before. I guess the whole pie is just getting larger. Plenty of room for everyone in the brick and mortar world and breadosphere too.
TB: We noticed that your wife, Denyce, has done some baking herself. Do you guys ever have family “Bake-Offs” or do you specialize in making the breads and she specializes in pies?
Eric: I guess you saw the reference to Denyce owning her own bakery. She can do it all. Between my bread baking and her awesome pies, cakes, cookies and pastries, we don’t suffer. I love it when “the kids” come to visit as they will this holiday season, she really cranks it out.
TB: Ok, enough about the technical stuff let’s get onto the bread!
I’ve noticed that you really enjoy a no-knead process. Do you personally prefer this method for its ease or because you feel it will appeal to readers who may be a little skittish still about jumping into the world of bread?
Eric: Both. It’s a great way to get started (get hooked is more like it), but you can create some amazingly good bread with it.
TB: The no-knead process is definitely ideal for a busy work week! In your opinion does a no-knead process produce superior bread in comparison to a more “labor intensive” kneading process?
Eric: My absolute favorite breads are the more labor intensive ones but I love the fact that no matter how busy things get, I can always take a few minutes to whip together a no knead bread for the next day. I think I’ve baked about four no knead loaves in the past week around a kind of hectic schedule. Four no kneads and one Peter Reinhart whole grain from his latest book. I’m sold on his whole wheat “broom” bread. It’s a regular now for me.
TB: You’ve mentioned several times on your site and you also did a complete episode on the topic of how difficult it is to kill a sourdough starter. You have made us believers after watching your video; however, we would simply enjoy getting to the step of actually having a starter to kill!
What advice do you have for people out there still struggling to create their first starter?
Eric: If one is really struggling with it, I would suggest getting some from somebody else.
TB: One of the techniques that you introduce on your site is using an outdoor grill to make bread as an option to heating up the house during the summer. I personally bake less because of that very problem. Could you talk about some of the successes or failures that you have had with this technique?
Eric: What’s that saying about desperate times require desperate measures? That’s sort of where the motivation came from. It took a few tries to get familiar with the baking characteristics of my grill. I charred the bottom of the first loaf because it was too close to the heat. The thermometer on the grill can only be used as a rough gauge so I just had to keep close tabs on the bread with an instant read thermometer until I had a decent feel for what worked. The learning curve wasn’t that long, and it was worth the effort. I grill pizzas a lot in the summer so it’s not much extra time or effort to turn out a loaf of bread while I’m at it. One weekend I baked some focaccia on the pizza stone after it had cooled some. It was a hit.
TB: What is your favorite bread not just to make but to eat?
Eric: It changes all the time. But the first bread that comes to mind is a recipe from Nancy Silverton’s book, La Brea Bakery. It’s called George’s Seeded Sour. I adapted the recipe to a no-knead method for my site which I think is almost as good and way easier. I still don’t think many have tried it because it requires a lot of ingredients.
TB: So is there anyway we can entice you to reveal a new recipe? Perhaps a debut of something you haven’t let out of your kitchen yet?
Eric: Here’s an awesome no knead recipe created by a Breadtopia reader Ed Pillitteri who lives in the
No Knead Sicilian Style Bread
300gr. Durum flour (not semolina for pasta)
120gr. White bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
¼ tsp Instant Yeast
1 ½ cup Purified Water
1 tblsp. Barley Malt Syrup
1 tblsp. EV Olive Oil
¼ cup Sesame Seeds
Mix the two flours, salt and yeast in a bowl. In a separate container (2 cup measuring cup works well) measure out the water then add the malt and stir until combined. Add the olive oil and pour it all into the flour mixture. The mixture may seem too dry but don’t add more water. The Durum flour takes a bit longer to absorb the water so cover for 10 minutes after mixing then mix again, briefly.
Place the bowl in plastic bag or cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 18 hours.
On a well floured surface, flatten dough and fold into three (like a letter) then in half. Cover with plastic or a towel and let rest for 15 minutes.
Preparing the proofing basket. No oil spray or bran this time. Instead, brush the inside of the basket liberally with good olive oil. While standing over the sink (to avoid a mess), sprinkle the sesame seeds evenly inside the bowl, pressing them in the grooves with you fingers.
Depending on the container (proofing basket) to be used, shape the dough into a ball or log, Place dough in the basket, cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for 1 ½ hours.
At least 30 minutes before baking, heat a large Dutch oven, including lid, or La Cloche Baker ( highly recommended) in the oven at 475 degrees. Remove the lid, invert the loaf into the La Cloche, replace lid and bake for 30 minutes. Remove lid and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more – be careful not to burn. Finished loaf should be a deep golden color.
Cool to room temperature on a rack before eating – no cheating. Buon Appetito .TB: Well, Eric thank you so much for joining us tonight and sharing with us your passion for bread and for the wonderful No-Knead Sicilian Style Bread! We really enjoyed having you and I welcome all of my readers to take advantage of the high quality baking videos that Eric has to offer over at Breadtopia.com.
We will see you next week for another session of Late Night at the Table!
Good Baking and Good Night.