BREAD baking in the wet-pot was a belated and surprising discovery. When Georgia suggested it, my first reaction, which may well be yours, was "Why bother? What's the advantage of baking bread in the pot over ordinary oven baking?" Georgia found the answer in Julian Street's delightful collection of essays and recipes, Table Topics. \) Perplexed by the inability of most American cooks to turn out a true French bread, Street consulted the chief baker of the Waldorf-Astoria during that institution's Hotel Splendide days circa World War I. "The principal things we learned were that for French bread there must be steam in the oven and that the addition of sugar to the dough helps to brown the crust. We believe the following recipe will produce as good a loaf as it is possible to make in the ordinary American household range, with heat coming not evenly from all sides but from the bottom only . .."
The wet-pot, which manufactures its own steam, also ensures that the heat comes "evenly from all sides." Here, ready at hand, was a miniature replica of Julian Street's French oven. The genuine French loaf that emerged plump, moist, and golden brown from the pot soon convinced us to try a variety of breads and pastries, with smashing results. In homage to the late Julian Street, who suggested the way to a superior method of baking, we begin this section with his nonpareil French bread. Don't expect the rough, coarse texture of San Francisco's famous sourdough French bread, however; this bread has a finer, crumblier, down-home character all its own.
° Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1959.
© 1974 All rights reserved. Published by Echo Point.