How do I get started baking bread?

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The short answer to the question of how to get started baking bread is Josey Baker. His name is Baker, after all. While I’ve reviewed his book before, it’s worth repeating since I get asked for good bread recipes all the time.

Why do I like Josey Baker’s book? Baker is a former science educator. He’s good at explaining things in a clear, step-by-step manner. Many of the other bread books floating around right now are, in my opinion, overly lengthy and, often, confusing. Best of all, Baker emphasizes whole grain, sourdough fermented breads.

Baker has summarized all the popular methods out there right now in one place. Want to make a New York Times no-knead/Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day type loaf? No problem, that’s the first loaf in Baker’s book. Want to make a Tartine style loaf without reading a hundred pages of directions? No problem, that’s also in the book. Wan’t to graduate on to a style of whole wheat/sourdough breads pioneered by people like Baker and Miller? He’s got you covered. If that’s not enough, Baker also shares the excellent Cooks Illustrated Chocolate Chip cookie recipe as well as a recipe for moist scones (no, scones don’t have to be as dry as dog biscuits!).

I’ve had the privilege of meeting Baker and hosting him for a bread class here in LA. He’s a supremely nice guy, more than happy to share his expertise and spend hours answering hydration ratio questions. I don’t think there was a moment when he wasn’t smiling. His mentor is someone I consider to be the finest baker in the US right now, Dave Miller (who was profiled in Michael Pollan’s Cooked).

If you’re visiting San Francisco make sure to visit his bakery which is located within a cafe called The Mill.

084 How to Make Your Own Cheese with David Asher

Want to learn how to make delicious cheeses in your own kitchen? It’s easier than you think. Our guest this week is radical natural cheesemaker David Asher, author of The Art of Natural Cheesemaking: Using Traditional, Non-Industrial Methods and Raw Ingredients to Make the World’s Best Cheeses.

During the podcast we discuss:

  • The difference between natural cheesmaking and the way most cheese is made in North America.
  • Using a kefir culture to make cheese.
  • The importance of quality milk.
  • What if I can’t get raw milk?
  • Easy cheeses.
  • The ins and out of rennet and how to make your own.
  • WalcoRen rennet.
  • Using cardoon flowers instead of rennet.
  • Tools you need for cheesemaking.
  • Hacking a fridge to make your own cheese cave.
  • Using leftover whey for fertilizer and cooking.
  • Making chèvre.
  • How to store cheese.
  • The cheese scene in Canada and the legality of raw milk.
  • Raw milk cheeses in Quebec.

To find out about David’s classes visit his website The Black Sheep School of Cheesemaking.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

How to Mix and Shape Dough Explained Without Words in Two Minutes

Some things to note about this video:

  1. Bakers use scales and so should you.
  2. Mixing dough entails making an incredible mess.
  3. Learning to shape dough requires practice.

As regards point #3, my plan is to mix up some practice dough (I use the dead dough recipe in the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook but any bread dough will do) and practice over and over. As a professional once told me when I complimented her on her pizza shaping prowess, “It’s because I’ve done it 10,000 times.” Practicing with dough you’re not going to bake takes out the fear of failure problem.

Thanks to Kathy Turk for alerting me to this video.

081 Foraging for Wild Foods With Leda Meredith


Did you know that you can eat bark? Make a foam from the common mallow weed? Use dandelion as a hops substitute in beer? Our topic this week is foraging and our guest is Leda Meredith. Leda has a certificate in Ethnobotany from the New York Botanical Garden, where she is also an instructor. She is also the author of five books including Northeast Foraging: 120 Wild and Flavorful Edibles from Beach Plums to Wineberries. Her new book is The Forager’s Feast: How to Identify, Gather, and Prepare Wild Edibles. During the podcast we discuss:

  • The ethics of foraging in city parks
  • Eating invasives
  • Is foraging sustainable?
  • Mallow foam
  • Vegan mallow mayonnaise
  • Dandelion beer
  • Foraging in Israel
  • Foraging in the winter
  • Eating bark
  • . . . and, of course, prickly pear

Leda’s website is and her Youtube channel is here.

If you want to leave a question for the Root Simple Podcast please call (213) 537-2591 or send an email to [email protected]. You can subscribe to our podcast in the iTunes store and on Stitcher. The theme music is by Dr. Frankenstein. A downloadable version of this podcast is here.

I picked a peck of pickled peaches

IMG_7181Each year I thin our peach tree to assure that, in a month, the squirrel population will access only the largest and most succulent peaches. The other reason to thin a peach tree is that if you don’t it will collapse of its own weight, like those industrial broiler chickens that can’t stand up if you let them live past the eating stage.

But what to do with all those immature peaches? Yes, you can pickle them. This I learned from Kevin West’s bible of food preservation, Saving the Season. In the introduction to his pickled green almond recipe (p. 103) West notes that immature stone fruit such as peaches and nectarines can be pickled in the same way as green almonds (almonds are a stone fruit too).

If you don't thin this branch it will break off.

If you don’t thin this branch it will break off.

I’d share Kevin’s recipe with you but he’s a fellow author and you really should own his book, Saving the Season. It’s the classiest food preservation book out there. Plus Kevin could have me killed and pickled (just kidding). What I can tell you is that this is a quick, vinegar powered refrigerator pickle. Any similar vinegar pickle recipe will work. West’s recipe calls for white wine vinegar. I ran out and substituted the vinegar you clean floors with. Nevertheless, they came out fine and resemble large olives.

Should you want to try pickling green almonds, by the way, you can sometimes find them in Middle Eastern grocery stores and some farmers markets (our local Armenian supermarket Super King sometimes has them if you can survive the infamous parking lot).