A title, publication date, plus more. Discover what we’ve been up to over the last year.
Over four years ago, the Modernist Cuisine team began to sleep, eat, and breathe bread—with an emphasis on the eating part. Of course we love all food, but one could say that we’ve become enthusiastic carbivores. We still have much to learn about bread, but we have reached a significant mile marker of our journey: an official book title and a tentative publication date. And we’re excited to share those with you—we anticipate that you will be able to find Modernist Bread: The Art and Science on bookshelves in March 2017.
Our passion for bread goes beyond appreciation for a really good loaf. Since this project began, we have fully immersed ourselves in the world of bread, both baking and researching it, all in the pursuit of understanding everything we possibly can about the science of bread and baking. As we’ve learned more about bread, our team has come across a rather interesting phenomenon: every new answer that we discover leads to a new question. The ingredient list can be simple, but baking bread is deceptively complex. There are still many puzzles to solve for the scientific community that studies it. Our team has performed over 1,500 experiments to date, and we’re still experimenting.
Countless loaves later, we’ve amassed (and are still generating) an incredible amount of content, so much so that it will fill five volumes, just like our first passion project, Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking. The culinary team has developed more than 1,200 recipes from around the world that are both traditional and avant-garde. At over a million words so far, Modernist Bread will total over 2,000 pages and feature more than 3,000 new photos.
What is Modernist Bread?
Bread has been around for a long time, and it’s one of the most technologically sophisticated foods you can make. Yet, throughout the last century, the general perception of bread has changed. It has become a good that is purchased and not made at home. For many people without access to wonderful local bakeries, bread is an afterthought at the store, and at restaurants, it’s typically served merely as an accompaniment to satiate diners as they wait for their meal to arrive. Unfortunately, it has also suffered another fate far worse—avoidance. Bread has become public enemy number one, deemed unhealthy for one reason or another, usually thanks to an abundance of bad information and poorly made bread.
Nevertheless, a new movement is taking form in bakeries and kitchens across the globe. The next generation of bakers and chefs are positioning bread and grain back at the center of the table, infusing a 6,000-year-old tradition with a renewed spirit of creativity and innovation. As they begin to experiment, there’s a new thirst for knowledge about bread. It’s flowing out of the professional environment and into homes where people want to know how to bake bread again and how to bake it well. In many ways, Modernist Bread is a celebration of this shifting paradigm and the exciting conversations that people are having about bread.
A new home
There have been other big developments for our team, specifically over the last year. Namely, Modernist Cuisine has a new home.
Our old kitchen was housed in a building that was a Harley-Davidson showroom during its previous incarnation. That space took shape organically as we worked on Modernist Cuisine. The long rectangular layout evolved as the scope of the book expanded and necessitated new equipment, the placement of which was dictated by where we could find available outlets instead of kitchen ergonomics. Our photo studio was located away from the kitchen in a different part of the building, which made some shoots challenging. Large dishes and projects, such as our Gaudí Gingerbread House, needed to be slowly (and tediously) wheeled through a maze of narrow corridors.
Our old kitchen will always be special to us because it was our first home, but our new space is already home. It’s larger and more functional. Our photo studio and kitchen are side by side, a change that has enhanced the collaboration between the culinary and photography teams. The square kitchen now makes it much easier to navigate and reduces the number of steps the culinary team takes throughout the day. It makes tasks like lifting heavy tubs of dough and carrying 50-pound sacks of flour that much easier. Baking bread all day is an incredibly labor-intensive craft.
Moving a culinary wonderland took about a year of planning and a month to relocate. All of our equipment is here, including the centrifuge, roto-stator homogenizer, and CVap, for which we’ve found new applications in baking. There are also a few new additions to the space. Being in a bigger space has allowed us to use new research tools, expanding what we’re able to do in-house.
We use a 3D scanner to create three-dimensional models of our test loaves in order to compare their volumes and densities. To better understand how different flours and doughs behave during mixing and baking, we use a Chopin Mixolab. This machine measures the resistance to mixing, and the integrated software converts the data into six qualitative indices that describe important properties of dough.
Another new tool is the Calibre C-Cell, used in the commercial baking industry, which allows us to test the quality of flour, assess gas cell structure of the crumb and quality surface features, and measure the height and width of different types of breads.
We’re now able to take all of our microscopy photos in-house. A scanning electron microscope helps us to look at ingredients at the molecular level. We’re able to see an incredible new view of bread, from the gluten structure to mold and yeast. We’ve discovered that the science of baking also happens to be fantastically beautiful—it’s just one of the many discoveries we’re thrilled to share in Modernist Bread.
What’s to come
From time-tested traditions to brand-new discoveries, Modernist Bread will capture the science, history, and techniques that will transform foodies into bread experts. Whether you are a strict traditionalist, avid modernist, home baker, restaurant chef, or an artisanal baker, we hope that this book will open your eyes to possibilities of invention and different ways of thinking.
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