Thinking bready thoughts



There aren’t too many weeks that go by without my baking bread at least once, and usually more often. I am a strong believer in bread baking fitting comfortably into your day. Laurie Colwin in her beautiful book Home Cooking writes a fabulous essay on baking bread that pretty much sums up my attitude about bread baking. ( Parenthetically, my copy of the book was a stupendous house gift from my friend Anne.)

At this point challah, and pita and bagels and peasant breads and pizza are all comfortable parts of my bread baking repertoire. I adore sour dough bread. But each time I read a recipe for how to set up a sour dough starter my head starts to ache.

According to most of the books I have read setting up sour dough sounds like it is almost as much work as taking care of an infant.

Awhile back I took a book out of the library that promised a method for making home baked bread with a time expenditure of only twenty minutes per day. The method in the book described setting up a loose bread dough and setting it in the fridge under a loose cover and then taking out a baseball sized lump of dough and using that to form the bread.


I tried that method and perhaps I misunderstood the directions, but a bread made out of a baseball of dough was just not enough for my bread eating family.


Last week  I sort of stumbled back into trying that method. I made the bowl of loose dough. When I pulled out the lump of dough to use. I kneaded in a generous amount of flour  and then allowed the bread to rise. I added enough flour  to the baseball sized lump to get a healthy sized loaf.  I put the loose  dough that was left back into the fridge.  After a couple of days the dough mixture in the fridge began to sour. So last week we ate a batch of sour dough bagels.


I made one attempt to add a bit more flour and water to the bowl. it seemed to work.


The bread you see rising at the top of the page was a rolled loaf filled with caraway and raisins. It was slightly sour.  I have made pita and round peasant loaves all from the same mix. It’s a nice, lazy way to make bread.


I’m still figuring this method out but once I get a clearer sense of what I am doing it will write out something that resembles something closer to a recipe, or at least something that someone who isn’t living inside my head can follow.


  1. I was such a huge fan of Laurie Colwin back in the day when she wrote for Gourmet Magazine. So sad that we lost such a wonderful, young writer . I've read a few of her books and I've always meant to get a copy of Home Cooking. Thanks for the reminder and looking forward to your recipe.

  2. I've never read anything else by Laurie Colwin, but Home Cooking is my favorite cookbook. I've always said it is well worth reading even if you never cook a single thing from it. That said, the gingerbread cake in that book is one of my all time favorite deserts. I've eaten it plain, with a dusting of powdered sugar, with a dollop of applesauce on top, with whipped cream, and with the chocolate frosting the author recommends. It is good every way I try it.

    I look forward to reading what your bready thoughts turn into.

  3. Still really enjoying your blog. Just bought Home Cooking.

    Your Irish, small-town fan . . .

  4. Reading Laurie Colwin feels like a having a really smart opinionated friend hang out with you. I don't always agree with her but I always love the time i spend having her in my head.


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