Baking · Books

52 Loaves

Continuing on the theme of sourdough bread, I recently read 52 Loaves: One Man’s Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust by William Alexander.

This book was published in 2010, but it really spoke to me. Truthfully, his whole journey was so relevant to where I am right now. In fact, the last time I really thought an author “got” what it was like for me to be me was when I read the $64 Tomato also by William Alexander.

William, although he seems to go by Billy in real life, sets out to master a peasant loaf over 52 weeks. His family is less than thrilled, which cracked me up, because mine would be disappointed that I was only baking once a week. Throughout the process he learns about yeast, flour, wheat, milling, levian (or a starter) and creating a brick or hearth oven in the backyard. He also gets a chance to go to France and takes a class on French Baking at the Ritz and then spends time in l’Abbaye Saint-Wandrille de Fontenelle teaching the monks how to bake their own bread.

I think if I had tried to read this book before I had stepped into the world of sourdough that I wouldn’t have understood very much of it. But, as it was, I was just a little behind him on the journey (at first) and I totally understood how confusing everything was and how he struggled to make sense of the jargon.

In the end, he finds a certain peace and ritual in the process of making bread and, most importantly, he has learned that there is no “perfection” when it comes to a loaf of bread. There is only the bread meeting you where you are.

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