Good Dough, Good Bread, Good Eats

By: Calvin Mayne | VP of Food
On: October 27, 2014

Our bread is so good that some folks find it hard to believe that we actually make it ourselves, entirely from scratch. Why don’t you see such authentic artisan baking more often? Although the ingredients be simple, it requires highly skilled bakers and the right equipment. To illustrate, let me tell you about our Farmhouse bread. It takes us about three days to make, from start to finish, beginning with flour, water, salt, and a pinch of yeast. At the end of the three day process, we hand shape every loaf, and then bake in our hearth ovens. In between, we have to handle the dough just so. I joke with Scott Fox, our Bakery Director, that we should call our bakers “dough masters.”

You see, to produce a bread with crust and character, not to mention flavor, you need to know how to deal with the finicky chemistry of dough. There are different types of living “mother” dough that we nurture on a daily basis. To continue with the Farmhouse example, this mother dough is often referred to as levain (the French word for leaven). It is, simply put, a continuous batch of naturally fermenting dough that is never fully depleted. We feed the levain every morning with flour and water. Thanks to the natural interaction of the yeast and natural sugars in the flour, along with a proper environment of temperature and humidity, the dough grows, and each day our bakers parse some of it off to make it into Farmhouse Bread. The newly separated batch of dough is left to rest and ferment until the next day.

On day two we add more flour, water, and sea salt. The dough is then divided into loaves and the loaves rest once again overnight. This repeated resting of the dough allows for the natural yeasts present to do their work and development of flavor. By contrast, industrial bakers greatly speed these processes by adding commercial yeasts and bromates. Finally, on day three, we are ready to bake. Our bakers skillfully hand shape every loaf. They then make cuts in the loaves, which not only add beauty to the finished product, but allow the bread to expand evenly as it bakes. After making the cuts they load the loaves directly onto the hot stone of one of our hearth ovens.

Even with the right ingredients and work with the dough described above, you still need a great oven to turn out great bread. Here’s why: The right oven maintains a very hot temperature with little air movement, so the loaf bakes evenly in a womb of intense heat. When the loaves of dough hit the hearth of stone, the interior of the loaf “jumps” away from the hot surface. This reaction, also called “bloom,” is what gives you the structure and irregular holes in the interior of the bread. Right after loading the loaves, our bakers will also give a quick injection of steam, which along with the heat of the hearth, cause the crust to form and caramelize. Speaking of ovens…we are just now firing up a new state-of-the-art hearth oven from Europe…only one of three of its kind at work in the U.S.! We believe that it will help us make even better bread with more consistency. We’ll tell you more about this amazing new oven in the future…

The shape and size of the loaf is important as well. We developed the oblong Farmhouse Bread for sandwiches as well as your dinner table. In fact, our Delis make thousands of sandwiches a week with our Farmhouse Bread. We make its close cousin, our DLM Signature Round, with the same dough. The bigger the loaf, the longer you can leave it in the oven, and the more caramelized the crust becomes. Being a big fan of flavorful crust, when I go to buy a DLM Signature Round I always ask for the biggest and darkest loaf. When you bite into this bread, chew it slowly and you will notice the texture of the crust and the interior’s pleasing savory taste with a little bit of a sour note. I’m craving it right now just talking about it! Whether you are alone eating a sandwich or having a gathering with loved ones, consider good bread and good eats from the DLM Bakery.