The Bread Baker’s Apprentice

The Dallas area is home to an impressive cadre of artisan bakers headed up by the good folks at Empire Baking on Lovers, La Spiga in Addison, Ravelin Bakery in Denton and the Bread Haus and Main Street Baking Company, both in Grapevine (not to mention Central Market, Eatzi’s and the elusive (and possibly defunct) Bistro Mama at Eden’s Organic Garden Center). With all those hands on deck you’d think it would be safe to assume that the region’s conditions are ideal for happy yeast and a successful crumb.

With this in mind, I’ve spent the last three months trying to bake just one passable loaf in my own kitchen. My failures have convinced me that these guys know some bit of leavening magic that I don’t.

My first loaf, which I bullishly made as a hostess gift for a party at my husband’s new boss’ home, was salty enough to attract deer. (Lesson: Never make for others that which has not crossed your own palate at least once.)

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My second attempt, a Jamie Oliver recipe involving a bottle of lager (which I subbed out with Imperial Stout), refused to rise. (Lesson: Baking is basically chemistry, so if the recipe says ale, use ale.)

The next, supposedly no-knead recipe resulted in a dough so soupy that it had to be poured into the waiting garbage can. (Lesson: Fact check recipes off the Internet for accuracy.)

Last weekend’s plain, white boule showed more promise and, while it was dense and almost immediately stale, it did make good toast. (Lesson: The road most traveled, while not as exciting, is sometimes the smarter choice.)

So, what now? Now it’s time to consult the pros. Stay tuned as I meet some of our great local artisan bakers, sample their wares, and get them to spill the beans (or the flour as it were) on how they manage to rise (and shine) every day.