The idea of a bread tasting had never occurred to me, but when the breads are as unique and layered in flavor as fine wine, why not? Lionel Vatinet offered the tasting of breads from his upcoming book at La Farm Bakery in Cary, which he opened in 1999.
Instructions to make the breads will be featured in “A Passion for Bread: Lessons From a Master Baker – Seven Steps to Making Great Bread” which will be published in November. It will be the first book for Vatinet, who trained in France (where he apprenticed for seven years) and San Francisco. The book is full of photos that show each step of the process for novice bakers, part of Vatinet’s goal of helping home cooks make beautiful fresh loaves.
We started with Vatinet’s classic 5-pound boule. And I found out why the sourdough-flavored loaf is so large. The recipe, Vatinet said, goes back to the tradition of communal ovens in small French villages. Villagers would bake loaves large enough to last their families for several days, and would mark each loaf with an identifying crest.
My previous experiences with all-whole-wheat breads has been that they were suitable for sanding down furniture. Vatinet’s was soft and flavorful, and he uses North Carolina grown and milled flour from a newly opened mill near Asheville, Carolina Ground.
Beaujolais replaced water in another bread that included chunks of salami. But, of course, my attention was drawn to a bread using cornmeal, onions, chives and buttermilk. I’m thinking that this fine-textured bread would make the base for a great grilled cheese sandwich or interesting in a savory bread pudding, if it hung around long enough to get stale.
Many of these breads are not regularly available at the bakery, but Vatinet says he will offer them more often once the book comes out.
He had taught baking classes at La Farm for years, and enjoys passing on knowledge. “People want that touch with the earth from making the bread,” he says.