bread loaf

Saint Paul Bread Club

We knead to bake!

Bread Baker Biography – Kim Ode (1/26/2005)

Who are you?

Kim Ode. My day job is writing for the StarTribune, but my life is being a mom to two teenagers, spouse to a Renaissance guy, a gardener, a sailor, a trombonist in a community band and a volleyball player wherever a net is raised. But when my mind is quiet, I think about bread.

How long have you been baking bread?

Off and on for years, but seriously only in the past two years.

Who taught you how to bake bread?

My mom.

When did you start baking bread at home?

When I built a wood-fired brick oven two years ago, after taking a course at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais with Alan Scott.

What’s your favorite bread to bake?

A sourdough boule.

What bread do you make most often?

That one.

Where do you get your bread recipes?

My sourdough is from Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the La Brea Bakery. I also like Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice and Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible. Having thus blown a decade’s budget on those purchases, I now haunt the baking section at Half-Price Books. For some reason, bread books are always being ditched.

How do you mix your dough?

Mostly by hand, although really wet doughs like focaccia go into the KitchenAid.

How do you proof your dough?

On the kitchen counter, unless it’s an overnight retarding that requires refrigeration. In spring and fall, I can put it out on the screened porch; in the winter, on top of the car in the garage. In the summer, I pretty much avoid baking breads that benefit from retarding. Sigh.

How do you bake your bread?

In my brick oven.

What gives you the greatest satisfaction in baking bread?

The idea that I’m doing something authentic, that I’m following a practice of centuries, that bread emerges from such elemental ingredients, that receiving bread makes people so happy, that I’m saving so much money in therapy.

What was the most difficult bread you ever made and was it worth the effort?

I’m not sure if I’d call this difficult, but croissants certainly are the bread I’ve had the most difficulty in making with any consistency. One reason, of course, is that I keep changing recipes instead of devoting myself to the mysteries of just one. The consoling factor is that even an inconsistent croissant is still highly edible.

What was the most unusual bread you ever made?

Probably one that incorporated pork cracklings, which are what’s left over after you render lard. It produced this moist bread with these little crispy bits and a subtle bacony flavor. I’d completely forgotten about it; now I want to make it again.

What was the most unusual ingredient you ever used in making bread?

Gotta be the pork cracklings.

What was the simplest bread you ever made?

Irish Soda Bread comes together in a trice.

What’s your favorite flour?

I use Dakota Maid, which comes stamped with the date it was milled. As a South Dakotan, I feel obliged to support anything with that name, even though it’s from North Dakota.

What’s your favorite yeast?

I use Fleischman’s or Red Star; haven’t discerned any difference, nor do I want to, since I buy whichever is on sale. I use the quick-rise.

Do you bake with sourdough?

As often as possible.

What kind of oven do you use? Do you use baking stones or water pans?

I always spritzed the inside of the brick oven after I’ve loaded it, but I suspect the water turns to vapor before it gets farther than 6 inches in. If I have room, I have an old roasting pan I fill with water. Sometimes the dough itself, and the quantity of the loaves, will create a decent amount of moisture.

What’s your favorite tool for making bread?

A dough scraper.

What kind of bread pans do you have?

Mostly baskets. I rarely bake something in a pan.

What shape loaves do you make?

Mostly boules and baguettes.

What’s the biggest batch of bread that you have made at home?

With the oven, I need to make a firing worth my while, so I make at least two, sometimes three, dozen loaves of various types and shapes.

Do you bake bread year round?


If you buy bread, where do you buy it?

I still have to buy English Muffin Bread at the grocery store for my son’s peanut butter-and-jelly sandwiches – the perils of precedent. But the whole idea of baking bread is to keep from having to buy it. Having said that, I couldn’t resist checking out Rustica; it’s amazing.

What’s your favorite bread book?

Nancy Silverton’s Breads from the LaBrea Bakery, even though I feel like she’d flog me for how I neglect my sourdough; I would tell her, however, that I find it extraordinarily resilient, which is a compliment to her. Right?

What is the bread book you would recommend to beginners?

I think Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice avoids both the artsiness and the folksiness that, to me, feel either intimidating or insulting in many books. He just wants you to make good bread, and knows that you can.

How did you find out about the Bread Club?

From the Taste section in the StarTribune.

What was your first Bread Club meeting?

The bake-off in April, 2004.

What do you like about the Bread Club?

Being with people who are passionate and romantic about bread.

What have you learned from the Bread Club?

I’m learning – can’t say I’ve learned yet – to start trusting my own instincts: how something feels, sounds, looks, tastes. I credit Klecko for pushing on that envelope.