Bread Recipes (Formulas)
Before baking your way through these breads, I encourage you to bake your own House Loaf. The House Loaf recipe is not set in stone, therefore you can try one House Loaf and then others from the book, then adapt some bread from some other book, then circle back to your own House Loaf. The House Loaf is important, in concept and in practice. What the House Loaf says is that you can bake any bread of your own design in your own kitchen, and in doing so you are free, you are capable, and you are your own best baker.
When you make a House Loaf, think of the act as an extraordinarily direct way to express love and caring towards your home surroundings and the people living there. Include yourself, because it is so important to have a direct hand in your daily nourishment, but also consider a wider cast: your romantic partner, your housemates, your family, your friends, your neighbors who might receive some of the loaf or share it with you.
Bake not to fulfill the goal of having completed this particular bread recipe. Bake with the goal of growing towards a foundational sense of how to work with these materials, a baking rhythm right for you, what sort of flours your taste buds lead you towards, and a feeling that the best bread available to you is your own House Loaf.
A “base composition” flour, somewhere between 400-600g of it A “flavor and texture” flour, somewhere between 300-500g of it A “kiss of something” flour, around 100-150g of it
A flexible amount of water: between 750-1000g of it
A flexible amount of salt: between 20-30g of it
The same amount of leaven I use for every Long Loaf: 235(ish)g
In choosing your flours, consider what each thing might do. If your “base composition” flour is high-gluten, white Artisan Bread Flour, maybe you want your “flavor and texture” flour to be a rougher-milled, locally-grown whole wheat. If your House Loaf is composed mostly of heirloom wheat varieties, it will likely be very thirsty – so plan on using a higher percentage of water. If the flours you are using are known for their sweetness, lean into the use of salt.
The morning of the day when I wrote this recipe, I baked a House Loaf composed of:
500g sifted Edison hard white wheat 410g Red Fife hard red wheat
90g Rouge de Bordeaux hard red wheat 235g leaven
28g salt 900g water
How did I pick these things? The Edison and Red Fife were bags of flour I had yet to open. The Rouge de Bordeaux had gone into my last three loaves. I started composing this bread by dumping the remainder of the Rouge de Bordeaux – a random 90g – into the bowl. I filled the bowl up to 500g with Red Fife, 410g of it. Then I used a solid 500g of Edison and went from there. I nearly always compose the “flour profile” (a term I haven’t seen anywhere and would be silly if taken too seriously, but in this context it works!) of the breads this way.
I started with 750g of water for the initial mix, then added about 100g more after the leaven had been squeezed in. A hefty splash of 50g more followed, with the salt.
How and why did I add this much water to the dough? You are looking for a dough that is flexible and loose, but bounces back when maneuvered. If it breaks when stretched, you have gone too far. In the bowl, it should be able to curl and slouch, not splay out flat (too wet) or take a great deal of tugging to pull (too dry).
When baking House Loaves, I leave the addition of water up to the feeling in the moment, the feeling from the dough, rather than any strict idea of reaching a number. This is something that will come with time and practice. It’s a bit funny to say that consistency comes with be- ing flexible, but in this case, with so many variations possible, it is true.
Think of it like a new friendship. Over time, as you become more and more familiar, the more comfortable it is to banter. A nuanced language develops between you. The making of your bread can be like this banter, intimate and particular.
The House Loaf is also a loaf that should be made Whenever It Can Be. Consider that when planning, when mixing, when baking. The House Loaf is created for the House, and happens in time with the rhythms of the House itself.
Andrew Barton + The Long Loaf
Local author, publisher, teacher, and clandestine restaurateur Andrew Barton is a busy guy, so when COVID lockdowns forced him into a relatively static homelife, he endeavored to earn himself yet another descriptive title: bread baker. His new book is a lyrical ode to the pleasures of pandemic baking and his journey into yeast-assisted sublimity.