I just picked up a new bread book. It's called The Village Baker by Joe Ortiz. I haven't actually made any bread from it yet but it's exciting to read. Basically he's a California baker who goes on several trips to Europe and talks to really interesting bread bakers and describes what they do in a very precise way. The book is very haphazard, it's really just a big collection of various techniques. He describes the gluten development in pain ordinaire as 'like soft, damp taffy.' And the baker who he was with let him 'touch the dough, he taught me what I couldn't learn by just looking.' Sounds sexual. There is lots of discussion as to what good bread is. The baguettes in Paris are apparently no good anymore. ''The bread... the bread is like air,' one unhappy Frenchman said while waving a piece of crust in front of my face. 'Years ago every bread was wonderful in Paris. But now they give us air.'' Sounds like the bread from the Fred Meyer bakery, except that doesn't even have a crust. But he then goes on to describe how this supposedly bad bread is made. A wet dough is whipped very fast for 20 minutes to develop lots of gluten. The airiness is made by getting the yeast very active and baking at the right moment, adding salt later in the knead -which would otherwise inhibit gluten development-, adding vitamin C, and lots of other little things. He doesn't discriminate, he just describes what he sees. It's a very nice cookbook and I wish there were more like it. A survey of food rather then one cooks idea of food.
The loaves in the photo are the sourdough whole wheat bread. It's fairly dense but they taste really rich, tart, and nutty.