Bob's Guide to Breadmaking

Having grown up on Wonder Bread, I would be embarrassed to admit how old I was before I grasped the concept of decent bread.

Once I had visited France and Italy, I tasted what was possible and spent the next twenty-plus years trying to duplicate what I had tasted.

It was a slow and tortuous process, producing everything from quite edible bread to a collection of failures: tasteless bread with no redeeming features, tasty bread with a bad crust, limp bread, tasteless bread with a fantastic crust, and sometimes, a barely edible product I refer to as "doorstop" bread.

I started with the French bread recipe in Joy of Cooking, worked my way through Beard on Bread, tried various Julia Child French bread recipes, peasant bread recipes and, during a particularly dark period, made bread with a bread machine.

I finally developed an all-day version of the Joy of Cooking French bread that seemed to be the best bread I could produce reliabily at home without using starter and a $3000 steam-injection oven or a wood-fired bread kiln.

The recipe produces two very nice loaves of bread that fall somewhere between French and Italian bread. The crumb is more open and heavier than true French bread but nowhere near as complex and fibrous as good Italian bread.

Here is the recipe for that bread: Bob's Fritalian Bread. There is also a quicker version of the Fritalian bread at the bottom of that page.

Much later, I stumbled onto a much simpler recipe. A friend found the recipe in Vogue, of all places, and I subsequently traced it back to an article by Jim Lahey in The New York Times. After some experimenting, I now have a recipe that is absolutely guaranteed to produce the best bread on the planet -- almost certainly better bread than you've ever eaten before.

The recipe is simple and foolproof and violates almost every principle of breadmaking. There is no suffering, no apprehension, no skill, and no kneading involved. It's depressing. I felt like a climber who, on reaching the top of a never-before-climbed peak, finds a festive party of out-of-shape suburbanites who rode up on the elevator.

When you make this bread, you won't get the satisfaction of spending years perfecting your bread-making skills. The consolation, and it's a powerful one, is that you get to eat the bread and watch others swoon as they eat it.

Here is the recipe: Bob's Disgustingly Foolproof Bread

I also have a great pizza recipe that may be up here eventually. In the meantime, Jeff Varasano's pizza site is the ultimate resource for making pizza.


Thank you for visiting

  —  Bob Ray