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Authors: James Beard

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Beard on Bread

BOOK: Beard on Bread
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This Is a Borzoi Book
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

Copyright © 1973 by James A. Beard
Introduction copyright © 1995 by Chuck Williams

All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. Published in the United States by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto. Distributed by Random House, Inc., New York.

Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following for permission to reprint previously published material:

Atheneum Publishers and George Lang:
Recipe for George Lang’s Potato Bread with Caraway Seeds from
The Cuisine of Hungary
, by George Lang. Copyright © 1971 by George Lang.

Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.:
Recipe for Jane Grigson’s Walnut Bread from Southern Burgundy from
Good Things
, by Jane Grigson. Copyright © 1968, 1969, 1970, 1971, by Jane Grigson. Copyright © 1971 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc.

The New York Times:
Recipe for Finnish Sour Rye Bread and recipe for Sourdough Rye Bread. Copyright © 1968 by The New York Times. Reprinted by permission.

Random House, Inc.:
Recipe for Pizza Caccia Nanza from
Italian Family Cooking
, by Edward Giobbi. Copyright © 1971 by Edward Giobbi.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Beard, James Andrew, 1903–1984
Beard on bread.
1. Bread.  I. Title.
TX769.B33  1973    641.8’15    73–7266
eISBN: 978-0-307-79055-2

Published October 23, 1973



Hors d’Oeuvre and Canapés

Cook It Outdoors

Fowl and Game Cookery

The Fireside Cookbook

Paris Cuisine
(with Alexander Watt)

Jim Beard’s New Barbecue Cookbook

James Beard’s New Fish Cookery

The Complete Book of Outdoor Cookery
(with Helen Evans Brown)

How to Eat Better for Less Money
(with Sam Aaron)

The James Beard Cookbook

James Beard’s Treasury of Outdoor Cooking

Delights and Prejudices

Menus for Entertaining

How to Eat (and Drink) Your Way
Through a French (or Italian) Menu

James Beard’s American Cookery

Beard on Food

Theory & Practice of Good Cooking

The New James Beard

Beard on Pasta

This book is dedicated to
who loves bread

I am grateful to the following people who helped to test and retest the recipes which appear in this book:

John Ferrone

Neil Micucci

Pearl Bresev

Janet Wurtzburger

Emil Kashouty

Eleanor Noderer

Tina Cassell

Felipe Rojas-Lombardi

And at least twenty others who were eager to test the recipes.


Jim, as James Beard was known to his many friends, loved to make bread. He loved the feel of the dough against his hands, and, as he often expressed, “You really can’t make good bread unless you can feel the texture, softness, and elasticity of the dough through your hands.” Ask him how long to knead the dough and the answer would probably be: Until it feels right!

Jim was an imposing sight standing at a table with a mound of dough in front of him, his large hands caressing the dough, turning and folding it, until just the right moment, when he would stop, poke it with a finger, and pronounce it ready for rising.

During the months and months this book was in its formative stages, bread was an all-consuming interest for him. It was a rebellion against the lifeless and characterless bread found on the shelves of the American supermarket. America had developed the automobile, the airplane, and the refrigerator, and had won the wars, but had failed miserably at making bread. Soft, spongy pre-sliced white bread with little flavor, slathered with butter or margarine and topped with peanut butter or jam, was what America was eating. There was little objection from most people, but Jim thought differently and was on a crusade to correct this sad state of breadmaking.

I remember Jim in his New York kitchen kneading yet another version of sourdough bread with the hope of replicating the crusty sourdough of San Francisco’s North Beach. I remember him in my kitchen in San Francisco trying out a buttermilk honey bread. It was a time for experimenting with new flours from small mills, new and stronger yeasts, putting tiles and pans of water in the oven to create steam—all in the quest to duplicate the crusty loaves of France. Jim had great and lengthy discussions on why the bread in France was so crusty and delicious. Was it the yeast? Was it the brick ovens in the basements of those charming Parisian bakeries? As I remember, the final consensus of opinion from Jim, Elizabeth David, and others was that it was the flour. Yes,
the flour—French flour was different! Yet, how different? Elizabeth David’s final pronouncement on the whole dilemma was, “You cannot duplicate it. You do not have the French flour and you are not in France, so there is really no reason to discuss it further.” But Jim was never one to dismiss a challenge. He continued with his experiments and his discussions on how the best of European breads could be reproduced on this side of the Atlantic. Of course he was right. Now there are excellent European-type breads baked in this country.

After its publication in the autumn of 1973,
Beard on Bread
accomplished what Jim had in mind—encouraging home cooks to bake bread. And bake bread they did! Not only that, they became more interested in taking cooking lessons. Also at this time, a new breed of chef was in its formative years—the Young American Chef! These young American chefs, fresh from a cooking school or culinary academy, emerged eager to change the way we ate. They wanted better bread in their restaurants, so they began baking their own crusty loaves. Some of the young bakers getting their first chance at creating these breads in the latest “in” restaurants soon started their own small bakeries, baking crusty country loaves of French and Italian origin.

With the increased interest in breadmaking, new flours appeared on the market—unbleached bread flours, hard-wheat flours, stoneground flours. Also new, improved active dry yeasts—stronger yeasts, faster-acting yeasts, most of them meant to be simply added to the flour. Some dedicated bakers would disdain commercial yeast, developing methods for capturing wild yeast to create “starters.” The shelves of the ubiquitous soft white sliced breads began to shrink while more interesting country-type loaves began to appear.

Today there are even more inducements for making your own bread. As well as the faster-acting yeasts, now there is a wheat gluten flour on the market that increases the gluten content of regular flour for better rising. New bread boosters, also containing wheat gluten as well as malt, will make your doughs rise more and give home-baked loaves the delicious malt flavor that we love in good crusty country breads. The electric bread machine, developed in Japan, has been a big hit with bread-loving Americans from the moment it was introduced here. The idea of fresh warm bread produced in your own home at a preset time and with little
effort has great appeal, especially among people not particularly interested in cooking. Jim would have been fascinated with the machine, as he was with the food processor when it first appeared, and would have experimented at great length with it. I am sure that his final appraisal of the machine would be that it has a rightful place in the homes of people too busy to bake or really not interested in baking, but that it cannot replace “hands-on” breadmaking any more than machine-made pies have equaled handmade ones. Unfortunately it will not produce, on its own, the crusty country loaves I have been talking about. If you want to understand the art of bread baking, get your hands in the dough.

Even though breadmaking has changed considerably since the publication of
Beard on Bread
, the book is as viable today as it was in 1973. With its simple instructions and easy-to-follow recipes, new dimensions in breadmaking have been created for the home cook. To quote Jim: “I find it always pleasant at the beginning of a day to “proof” the yeast, to plunge my hands into the dough and bring it to life, to watch it rise, and to wait for the moment when the finished loaf can be taken from the oven. There is no smell in the world of food to equal the perfume of baking bread and few greater pleasures in eating than sitting down with a slice of freshly baked bread, good butter, and a cup of tea or coffee.” I heartily agree!

Chuck Williams



To make yeast bread we need
wheat flour, which contains a protein called “gluten.” When we stir and knead dough, gluten is the ingredient that makes the elasticity, holds in the gas caused by the fermenting yeast, and creates the architectural plan of the bread. The flour called “all-purpose,” which is the most generally available flour, is wheat flour. It comes both bleached and unbleached, and because it is a sturdier flour and has better texture, the unbleached is preferable. Unbleached flour has long been available from Standard Mills under two brand names, and it is interesting to note that the larger mills, like Pillsbury, General Mills, and Robin Hood, who up until this time have promoted bleached flour, with its “enrichments,” are also beginning to offer unbleached flour, as well as
flours that are much more vigorous, such as coarsely ground meals. This is a great advance in the world of commercial foods, one that I am sure is motivated by the tremendous interest in stone-ground flours and special flours turned out by small mills across the country in the last five or six years now that breadmaking has become a popular art again. People will even go right to the source to buy these flours, or buy them in specialty health food shops.

BOOK: Beard on Bread
11.73Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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