“The perfect loaf was not something I was going to create; it was something that I was going to find. It was already there, waiting to be discovered or baked, but I had to elevate myself to reach it. It would not reveal itself until I was ready.” – William Alexander
Bread is the staff of life. In this case, it was more like the holy grail. Join William Alexander on his baking quest in 52 Loaves — and bite into the perfect e-book for $1.99 through September 30th as part of our Food, Glorious Food Lucky 7.
Alexander is determined to bake the perfect loaf of bread. He tasted it long ago, in a restaurant, and has been trying to reproduce it ever since. Without success. But now he’s going to try again—every week for one year—until he gets it right. He will bake his peasant loaf from scratch. And because Alexander is nothing if not thorough, he really means from scratch: growing, harvesting, winnowing, threshing, and milling his own wheat.
Alexander’s often hilarious quest takes our (anti)hero through dangerous back alleys of Morocco, where he bakes his loaf in an ancient communal oven; to Paris, where he enrolls in the cours de boulangerie at the famed École Ritz Escoffier; to a monastery in Normandy, where (his lack of French and faith notwithstanding) he becomes bread baker to the monks; and finally to his own backyard, where he builds a lopsided brick oven and learns that perfection is just a state of mind. Alexander also takes us along on entertaining visits to yeast factories and flour mills, seeks advice from master bread bakers, captures wild yeast to make his own levain, and enters the baking contest at the New York State Fair.
An original take on the six-thousand-year-old staple of life, 52 Loaves explores the nature of obsession, the meditative quality of ritual, the futility of trying to re-create something perfect, our deep connection to the earth, and the mysterious instinct that makes every single person on the planet, regardless of culture or society, respond to the aroma of baking bread.
“Alexander’s breathless, witty memoir is a joy to read. It’s equal parts fact and fun . . . Alexander is wildly entertaining on the page, dropping clever one-liners in the form of footnotes and parenthetical afterthoughts throughout.” - Boston Globe