Breads from the La Brea Bakery
I checked this book out from the library today and was a little shell-shocked. The format in which the recipes are given is a bit overwhelming. The author, obviously a woman very, very SERIOUS about her bread making, is a touch elitist in her approach. But, I suppose I might be that way too if I could bake as well as she appears to. ;) Anyway...my concern with some of the recipes is that the author spends a great deal of time encouraging the use of the best flours and even speaks of "regional grains". I must be sooooo un-bread-u-cated, because... I didn't even realize that there were such a thing as "regional grains". It makes sense,... in the same way that certain grapes give certain flavor (from different regions) to wines. But...is it really necessary to be so specific on grains? I kind of thought a rye-was-a-rye-was-a-rye.
Yes, she is very serious. When I was getting my baking certificate, we discussed the need or not of regional grains. We wanted to do a bake off, but couldn't find any regional flour. So availability can be a problem. When I lived in California, I did see some locally grown and milled flour at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market but no where else. And it wasn't there the last couple of times I was there.
All in all, my thought is that if you can find it, try it and see what you think. If not, don't worry too much about it.
Regional grains, eh? Man... I swear, it is like there is a competition between cookboook authors to see who can nag about the most insiginificant thing.
I swear... You can get 90% of the way to making great bread using the ingredients you find at any grocery store. Fine, to get that final push over the top to making incredible bread you might need special ingredients, but that should be one of the last things you worry about, not the first.
I, personally, don't care much for that book. She seems almost anal in her approach, to me.
Most novice bread bakers will benefit much more from learning technique. Jeffrey Hamelman's "Bread" is a great book for learning technique. He has a no-nonsense approach, which I like. It isn't really a book for beginners, though, but rather someone who has been baking awhile and is now ready to get serious about it.
If you haven't tried autolyse or retarding your dough in the fridge, you must give it a try. The resulting bread is so much better quality.
I recently made a wild yeast sourdough starter out of local grains. I must say that it has the best flavor of any of the starters that I have been using. I also have started using the same local mill's bread flour (Wheat Montana). The flavor of the resulting bread is really amazing. I do have an advantage of living in an area where wheat farming is a big business.
Also to be kept in mind, her the starter formulas have a strict feeding schedule. It'll work out if you work from home or are the stay-at-home parent. If you have to go to the office, you might find Peter Reinhart's starters a better place to start.
You can get 90% of the way to making great bread using the ingredients you find at any grocery store. Fine, to get that final push over the top to making incredible bread you might need special ingredients, but that should be one of the last things you worry about, not the first.
Floyd... I just can't help but think of Spinal Tap. "This one goes to 11...if we just need that extra-push, that extra loudness...11!" :)