The current bread book that captivates me so much right now is Maggie Glezer's "Artisan Baking"-- a paperback version of her award-winning book "Artisan Baking Across America." This is not just a compilation of bread formulas like most bread baking books are but is more like a travel journal of sorts, where the author transports you to a particular place and time, vividly and eloquently describing her wonderful experiences in various artisan bakeries (both big and small) across the United States as well as her trips to the wheat fields that nurture the very heart and soul of bread baking -- flour. Glezer, as she narrates her stories, has this amazing talent of making you feel like you're actually there, right in her shoes, talking to the local artisan bakers, witnessing their bread making skills and best of all, giving you a chance to taste what she's tasted through the well-written formulas in the book. What makes this book even more noteworthy is the beautiful collection of photos that provides a little peek at this somewhat clandestine world of artisan baking in the US.
The bread that immediately caught my attention was this rustic roasted garlic bread made by a very small artisan bakery in Petaluma, California called Della Fattoria. What's interesting about this bread is the addition of a filling made out of roasted garlic puree, olive oil and dry jack or asiago cheese (I used fontina) - all the ingredients I love in one bread! The loaves' exterior looks so pretty as well as you top them with beautiful sprigs of cilantro or parsley and a clove of unpeeled garlic. I used both herbs, topping one loaf with cilantro and the other with parsley and I noticed that the parsley leaves retained more of their green color compared to the cilantro after baking.
The thing that I like about Glezer's recipes is that she classifies them according to their difficulty level namely beginner, intermediate and advanced. This particular bread is in the advanced category not because it is exceptionally hard to make but I think it's because of the numerous lengthy steps required prior to making the final dough. For one, you're required to already have an established firm sourdough culture (which takes at least a week to cultivate) as this bread is leavened purely by wild yeasts with not even a fraction of an ounce of commercial yeast to boost the leavening power of the culture. Secondly, just making the roasted garlic puree alone takes 1 hour of roasting in a 350 F oven not to mention the mashing and mixing done afterwards. To save on fuel, I included the roasting of the garlic while I baked my Pizza Rustica the night before. Lastly, shaping the dough into a boule with all the filling inside is a little tricky to do as you have to make sure that the shaping is tight enough that the filling doesn't seep out of the bread (but not too tight that the bread will burst) during baking as well as making sure that the filling is evenly distributed within the center of the bread so that each slice will have relatively the same amount of filling and each bite will give you almost the same luscious flavor and intensity of garlic and cheese. As shown in the pic of the crumb below, the filling is more concentrated on one side rather than filled in the center --I still need a lot of practice before I could get this right :-)
I really love the flavor of this bread and how the mushy filling can be spread onto the slices like how you would jam, the crumb soaking in all the flavors of the filling. These made excellent toast and bruschetta and I like how the toasting made the crust even crispier than it was coming out of the oven. Somehow, I'm not having much luck getting that perfect crispy bread crust which I know can only be perfected through time and practice.
*Submitting this post to YeastSpotting*