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Ultimate Bread - Introduction

[Do Not Use]DK Publishing logo[Do Not Use]DK Publishing 2/07/2014 DKBooks
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In France and in Italy, where we come from, a meal is not a meal without bread. There, bread is taken very seriously. The daily visit to the bakery is a ritual that punctuates the rhythm of life. People choose their bread with special care and patronize the baker of their choice with an almost religious allegiance. It is said that the table is not set until bread is put on it. Bread is used to eat with as much as it is eaten: a piece of bread is used as a kind of secondary fork, and then is used to wipe the plate clean of every last morsel. Indeed, for many, culinary life begins with bread as mothers give their babies a hard crust on which to cut their teeth.

All over the world, bread plays an important role in festivals and celebrations, traditions, and superstitions. Eric’s father, like others of his generation, still marks the sign of the cross with the tip of his knife on the base of a loaf before he cuts it. Both of us clearly remember being warned as children not to place a loaf of bread top crust down on the table because it was sure to bring bad luck.

We were privileged that our first experiences of making bread came early. Indeed, Eric’s first contact with professional cooking was with bread; during his school vacations, he worked as a mitron – baby baker – at Le Fournil, his uncle’s boulangerie in southwestern France. Ursula remembers the hot summer evenings when her grandmother would light the wood-fired oven on the terrace of their family home in Campania. She recalls the sweet, yeasty fragrance of the seemingly magically growing dough and its soft, springy texture as she formed it into a round, for it was a family tradition that each person shape and top his or her own pizza.

When work drew us away from our homes to London, we were puzzled and shocked at the acceptance of mass-produced, inferior bread. It was our natural appreciation of bread with which we were raised that propelled us into baking bread at home for ourselves and then into teaching others how to do the same. Besides providing good food, breadmaking enlivens both your kitchen and your life when it becomes a regular activity. We hope that this guide brings the same tremendous pleasure and satisfaction.

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