Get better bread when you make it ahead

Donna Currie

Donna Currie is an author and food writer for Serious Eats, Whisk Magazine, and the Left Hand Valley Courier, and other food publications. She also has a blog, www.cookistry.com, where she writes about a variety of subjects from bread to corned beef to cocktails. She has just published her first cookbook, Make Ahead Bread. (Enter our contest for your chance to win a copy of the book).  Donna talked to us about how she got into food writing and what led to Make Ahead Bread.


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I always knew that some fine day, I'd write a book and see it published. Or I guess I dreamed it. Back when I was a kid, I thought I'd write science fiction with space ships and lasers, or fantasy fiction with sorceresses and dragons.

While I did get one short story published in a sword & sorceress anthology many years ago, that was a one-time success. I dabbled in other types of writing and my choice of genre took several turns before I focused on food writing and recipe development. Then, before I knew it, I was hip-deep in flour and knee-deep in yeast, and I was writing a book about bread.

The concept behind Make Ahead Bread is that most folks might not have time to make bread from start-to-finish in a single day, and definitely not when they want sweet rolls for breakfast or dinner rolls on a weeknight after work.

So I created recipes that are broken into prep days and baking days. On baking day, it's generally just a matter of preheating the oven and baking the bread. So, there's little to clean up, and not much time spent before that bread is ready to eat.

The idea seems simple enough - just make a recipe, form the loaf, and chuck it into the refrigerator. But it's not quite as easy as that. The dough needs to rise just enough during refrigeration, and many of the recipes I worked on rose too much or too little - so I had to tweak the formulas to make them work.

The funny thing is that while these recipes are designed for the long, cold overnight rise, most of them are just as happy to be baked the same day. But the advantage of the cold, slow rise isn't just about convenience or time-saving. Bread that has risen slowly tastes better.

So, it's easier and it's better.

A lot of folks I've talked to imagine that writing a cookbook is simply a matter of compiling a bunch of recipes and sending them to a publisher to print them. I never imagined it would be quite that easy, but there were a lot of details that I never considered, from the order to work on recipes (not from front to back) to how recipe are chosen for photos.

I did a few things wrong as far as my scheduling and processes. Some things I figured out along the way. Like, there's only so much room in the refrigerator, so I had to plan for that. And there was that one day when I had one more batch of dough than I had loaf pans.

Besides bread recipes, my book includes recipes for using leftover bread, and that was one of the last bits I worked on. It wasn't the best planning ever. When I was ready to work on that section, I realized that I didn't actually have any bread in the house. I had given the last loaves away. So … I had to bake more bread to make the stratas and bread puddings and other recipes in the book.

Which was fine, really. It gave me a chance to make a few recipes one last time, as the final check.

In the end, it all worked out, and I have to say that I was very happy with the result. Now, I just have to wait to see if others like the breads I created as much as I do.

3 Comments

  • PattiMac  on  11/10/2014 at 3:17 AM

    If it were easier I would make more baguette!

  • veronicafrance  on  11/10/2014 at 4:17 AM

    I make all of my own bread now. Sourdough requires long, slow rises. So my normal pattern is to make the dough about 9-10 pm, knead it, leave in the fridge overnight, then shape and prove at room temperature in the morning. With a bit of luck I have fresh bread by lunchtime, and hands-on time isn't that much (half an hour tops).

  • cadfael  on  11/12/2014 at 10:42 PM

    I would make cinnamon rolls & Danish more often

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