As a baker, I always get the same questions. Some are surprising: How early do you get up? What’s the most bread you’ve ever made? Do you ever get bored? And some are reliable in their consistency: What’s your favorite bread?
But as the eater, the person who feeds a family, and for whom a day's worth of food consists of a constant stream of carbohydrates — from citrus-zested French toast to thick toast slices topped with avocado to soup with a high stack of garlic-rubbed crostini — yes, I have a favorite. A single loaf, in fact, that can do ALL these things.
It’s the Honey-Beer Miche. (Or, as we call it at my house, simply “Bread.”)
This miche and I have a long history. I gleaned what I could of the recipe from Paula Oland, the creative force behind Balthazar Bakery in New York City. Paula was obsessed with recreating a bread she’d had in Paris, one with a dark crust, a wisp of acidity from sourdough culture, a little whole grain flour, and as big as the country loaves of old.
She succeeded. It became Balthazar’s signature loaf. And in the early 2000s, I began my quest to make it with my own hands. While my recipe has seen its share of changes over the years — from the version we make at the King Arthur bakery to the version I put in my cookbook — I’m convinced this one is the best yet.
I’ve made the dough a little easier to handle, lowering the water just a bit to reduce the stickiness. I’ve increased the dark beer for even more robust flavor and added a tiny bit of honey to help with browning in the oven. (Deep crust color is a must!). I’ve also increased the size, aiming for something that takes up a whole baking stone or steel, to emulate the abundant feel of Paula’s large loaf.
The resulting bread is my BFF (that’s Bread-For-Forever), my go-to, The One. And it’s our Bake of the Week.
Cover photo by Rick Holbrook.