Hello, my name is MC (stands for Marie-Claude) and, yes, I am French and passionate about bread, bread making, bread tasting, bread eating, bread blogs, bread books, bread pictures, bread everything. If the above picture is any indication, I seem to have started early: barely 15 months old, you can see I was already scrutinizing the crumb with a gimlet eye.
In the many years since we moved to the United States, I have witnessed a bread revolution the likes of which I never imagined, even in my wildest dreams. I remember only too well our first baguette encounter in a New York City supermarket, back in 1979. The first inkling that the baguette might be different from the ones we knew back in Paris is that it came in a cellophane bag, the second that it folded in a candy cane shape the minute we lifted it out of the basket. Sadly sandwich bread didn’t do it for us. Serious bread nostalgia set in.
Today in many areas of the country, ancient grain varieties are being revived, farmers, local millers and bakers enter into partnerships, bakeries are sprouting up, and home bakers have become so hungry for “real bread” that they describe themselves as SHB (serious home bakers) and lively bread communities are on the rise all over the world.
I myself come from a long line of bread-baking women as my paternal great-grandmother and her mom and grandma and great-grandma (you get the picture!) before her were in charge of baking the family bread. It was customary in Southwest France in the old days, not that I ever saw it done as that way of life disappeared way before I was born but I guess it’s in my genes. My Dad however remembered it very well. Every two weeks dough would be mixed at home, then baked in the communal oven. Every woman scored her mark on the loaves so that they could be identified when they came out of the oven. These loaves were enormous six-pounders and, being made with starter, they kept very well. Were these women SHB? You bet. Bread was the staff of life in those days and in small villages which couldn’t sustain a baker, if you didn’t make your own bread, you didn’t have enough to eat. In my family’s case, it helped that a close relative was a miller. The mill was downriver three or four miles away. The women used to walk there for a chat with the miller’s wife and came home bent under a bag of flour.
Farine is the French word for “flour”. Why would I want to give a French name to an English-language blog? Well, because you can take the proverbial woman out of France but not France out of the woman. You were bound to notice I am not 100% American anyhow.
interest in passion for bread goes back a long long time. I can date it exactly back to the summer when my husband, our 2-year old daughter, our 1-year old son and I went to Scandinavia for a summer vacation. We lived in Paris at the time. We went first to Norway to visit family. My cousin Jacques was then married to Anja, who was from Finland. At their house we were introduced both to marvelous home-made bread (at the time, it hadn’t even entered my French consciousness that bread could be made at home, which shows how disconnected from my ancestors I was) and to a very educational (especially for our kids who were goggle-eyed) extended-family sauna session. So how can I ever forget when it all started?
To show you that I am not kidding when I say I fell in love with homemade bread on that day, look: here is the recipe. I have saved it all these years (forty-six and counting) and it followed me from Norway to Denmark to France to the United States. Doesn’t it tell you something?
Anja was using a sour starter and no yeast at all, and her starter didn’t contain any flour. It was made with 100% sour milk.
So my interest in wild yeast goes indeed way way back (my interest in saunas wasn’t as long-lived and no, I have no pictures of that day!) and it lay dormant (just like wild yeast) for years and years.
The person who woke it up is Nancy Silverton. When her book, Breads from La Brea Bakery, came out in 1996, I got one of the first copies and never looked back. The bread bug had found me again and this time, it bit me for good and never let go.
Welcome to Farine!