Picture Yourself Baking Bread (and loving It)

Picture Yourself Baking Bread (and loving It)

Baking bread is more about the journey than the destination. The path that’s followed might wind and wander a bit with each loaf, but lessons will be learned along the way. Long-time home bread baker and professional photographer Ryan Hulvat documents his yeasty efforts with the zeal of a proud parent – both when fragrant golden loaves are pulled from the oven and throughout the process. His passion for bread is like culinary religious zealotry and he’s always looking to attract converts. 

In an age of instant gratification and the wide availability of good breads on offer at major grocers, finding motivation to bake bread from scratch may be challenging – it’s too time consuming or perhaps too meticulous. However, try viewing those supposedly negative attributes from fresh perspective and the experience becomes quietly contemplative, and at times quite therapeutic. As proficiency increases, curiosity can lead to experimentation and invention. Hulvat compares bread baking to the improvisation of jazz musicians – like John Coltrane starting with a straightforward rendition of “My Favorite Things” and bending the tune into amazing new directions. 

Hulvat’s go-to reference book, The King Arthur Baking Company’s All-Purpose Baker’s Companion, provides excellent guidance – and his copy of the book bears a proud patina of drips and splashes on pages of oft-used recipes. Potential bakers not yet ready to commit to a book purchase can explore the website kingarthurbaking.com for mouthwatering photos and inspirational recipes. You never know where these delicious temptations could lead. 

A Crumb of Advice

One small caveat Hulvat offers is to avoid making sourdough bread as an initial baking attempt: Though suddenly wildly popular, there are multiple ways the recipe for this crusty favorite can fail, and newbies should start with something simple and safe. 

The Staff of Restaurant Life

Many a meal begins with the breaking of bread among friends and family members –a tradition held in high esteem at the Savory Grille in Macungie. In the quiet hours of early morning, Chef/owner Shawn Doyle heads to the kitchen to begin his bread baking ritual. His initial reward for the task comes not from the taste, but from the aroma. “I’m addicted to the smell,” he says. And, after decades of crafting countless much-anticipated loaves, this diligent chef has learned to “go with the flow” and no longer even needs to weigh ingredients. While classic French baguettes are a house staple, dining patrons embrace whatever offerings are tucked into that evening’s breadbasket – which could range from cranberry-studded pumpernickel swirl, oatmeal molasses, or Kalamata olive bread to such unexpected and exotic offerings as black sesame-turmeric bread. A changing line-up of house-made breads sold on the restaurant’s Retail platform enables fans to explore new varieties at home. And who knows, they might just contemplate trying to recreate them. 

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