Honey Whole-Wheat Bread from A Passion for Bread by Master Baker Lionel Vatinet

Lionel grew up in a suburb of Paris, so his passion and love for bread was ingrained at an early age.  The smells of bread baking throughout the streets of Paris enamored Lionel as a young boy.  Growing up with the traditions surrounding bread, whether it was a morning slice of pain de campagne or a good piece of French bread at night to capture every last bit of sauce from his dinner plate, Lionel became passionate about bread.  He says this about his signature La Farm Bread, “After all these years, the aroma, the crust, the crumb, and the complex flavor still excite me.  And once you begin making your own, I guarantee that it will be your favorite as well.”

This book is a Bible of artisan bread baking and I would suggest that you read through the early chapters before beginning to tackle any of the recipes.  This book lays out, in very detailed format, the proper ingredients for bread baking, the special tools you will need, and the seven steps to making beautiful artisan breads at home.  It is also full of step-by-step illustrations so that you know how to precisely handle the dough, taste it, and know when the dough is ready for the next step.  There are also dough logs and charts to record the temperatures of the dough throughout each process.  Baking, especially this type of bread baking, is as much science as it is an art, so follow the directions exactly as written in order to have the best success with your breads.  Improvising and guestimates are not recommended.

Weigh in grams with a digital scale

Weigh the ingredients in grams with a digital scale

Gather your mise en place

Mise en place

Keep the salt and yeast separated

Keep the salt and yeast separated

The recipe for Country French Bread is the one that Lionel usually teaches first to home bakers.  Once you have mastered that recipe you can move on to other breads, many of which are based on that recipe.  The beginning of the book lays out the steps that are important to the process.

As I was reminded by Thomas Keller when we attended his book signing for Bouchon Bakery earlier this year, start with something simple.  So that’s what I did.  If you begin with an easier recipe and have great success, you are more likely to press on, so Lionel’s Honey Whole-Wheat Bread was the perfect choice.

The dough should look like this before its first fermentation

The dough should look like this before its first fermentation

After the first fermentation, shape the dough into a rectangle

After the first fermentation, shape the dough into a thick square

Pat down to a square

Fold in the corners and press them in to the middle.  Repeat twice.  Ferment again.

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