Ah yes, bread. While living in Paris I could not leave the boulangerie with a nice crispy baguette intact.....had to rip that end piece off and eat it. In Paris we bought bread twice a day, for lunch and for supper. Any leftovers were for "tartines" (bread spread with butter, cheese or preserves) for breakfast.
The Great American Bread Revolution finally began with the onset of restaurants like Chez Panisse and the lot. Chefs were actually starting to "think" about bread. James Beard wrote his classic book, people began baking again (our grandparents always baked bread), and we soon got out of the Wonder Bread regime. Not that Wonder Bread doesn't have it's place, it does, you cannot make a PBJ on crusty sourdough with rosemary and garlic!
Some of my favorites would baguette, ciabatta, focaccia, anything whole grain and rustic, sourdough. Oh yeah........sourdough.
When I first moved to Alaska I thought it would be cool to make sourdough and my own starter but didn't want to involve any packaged yeast.....those gold miners in 1898 didn't have little packets of dried yeast. After a lot of research I learned they captured the "wild yeast" in the air (similar to the white film on grapes). So I set my bowl of flour and water with cheesecloth on top in a place where it would get good cross-ventilation, trying to capture yeast. (SO says snarkily, "why don't you use a butterfly net to catch it?" Very Funny.)
After this bowl of glue sat for three weeks a few bubbles did appear but I was expecting a cauldron. This did not happen. Oh well, I proceded to make my bread anyway. First night I made the "sponge" and let it sit. Next morning I mixed up the dough, let it rise. Not much of a rise. (The dough at this point is devoid of shortening, sugar and commercial yeast.) Punch it down.....punch indeed! It was like cement! And put into loaf pans and let rise again. Same thing. I put the damned stuff in the oven (electric, and the first time I had ever baked in one...this is going to get ugly fast). After 30 mins. I check the bread which was smelling very good and sour. The loaves had risen a little, not much but were the same WHITE color as when I put them in. Not a pretty color for bread. Hmmm says I, if I brushed the tops with some butter that would color them.....oh and turn the broiler on so they brown without overbaking. I proceded to do just that. Turned the broiler on HIGH and walked away. 60 seconds later I open and door and WOOSH, flames shot out at me, all three loaves were ON FIRE and black as coal. I took the bread out and blew out the flames, thus creating a great amount of smoke and setting all the alarms in the house off. SO came running wondering what all the comotion was all about, as I was on my way outside with the smoldering sourdough bread. After this episode I was so disgusted I threw the starter away and vowed never again to bake bread that did not contain yeast (the kind you don't catch with butterfly nets).