Friday, October 21, 2011

Confessions of a Bread-aholic


Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.  -James Beard

I wholeheartedly agree!!

I must confess, I have a love affair with bread.  When the low carb diet came along, I tried to break up with the object of my desire.  A daily struggle, its power over me was much too strong.  Lulled with a glass of red wine, I would resume my relationship.  Giving up on the idea of total exclusion, the experience did leave me more discerning.  Today, I can exercise will power around only so/so bread.  Show me a freshly baked loaf with it's intoxicating fragrance, I must and will give in.  I'm okay with that.
I came into music just because I wanted the bread.  It's true.  I looked around and this seemed like the only way I was go to get the kind of bread I wanted.  -Mick Jagger
Whether it is metaphorical or not, Mick implies really good bread can be expensive.  If you have ever witnessed me singing, you know I would be unsuccessful singing for my bread!  Because my desire is so insistent and potentially costly, my least expensive option is to make it myself.  Therein lies my problem.
Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.  -Henry Ford
Many years back when I first got married, I attempted to make my first loaf.  How hard could it be?  I had witnessed many a successful roll-making sessions with my grandmother.  I pulled all the ingredients together, kneaded and kneaded.  Then I waited for the rise.  It never happened.  What a flop.  Any number of things could have happened like expired yeast, too cold a room, not enough kneading, who knows....  Several more tries and I became discouraged.

Then, one Christmas, a bread maker arrived! 

Oh, what wonderful breads it could make!  Except it churned out tall, box-like loaves looking like an anvil dropped to the ocean floor.  Not what you would call visually appealing.  How to overcome the visual?  I know!  Make the dough in the bread maker where my skill set was definitely lacking and then turn the prepped dough into a loaf shape of my liking and bake in the oven.  That worked for me...for awhile.  It still does if I'm short on time.
Success consists of going from failure to failure without the loss of enthusiasm.  -Winston Churchill
In the last year or so, my desire to make bread on my very own was sparked after reading one of my very favorite authors book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle:  A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver.  She and her family deliberately set out for one year to feed themselves with food they raised or grew themselves.  Short of that, they'd buy ingredients locally.  This meant nothing processed, including their bread.  Every chapter would illustrate another luscious loaf of bread being made along side whatever meal prep was in progress.  The beauty of this was she saved a bunch of money, was confident she wasn't eating preservatives and the bread was tasty.

So inspired, I immediately stopped buying bread in the store.  If I am going to have bread I vowed, I am going to make it myself.  Since that vow which I took in September 2010, I have experimented with many recipes.  Some turned out okay.  Others not so much; think hockey puck.  But I wasn't about to give up.  When I wasn't making bread, I'd read and learn from other people's experiences.  Jeffery Steingarten probably has the funniest account of his pursuit for making the perfect sourdough loaf in his book, The Man Who Ate Everything

Thank goodness my husband supports my passions.  He's really hung in there.  And with that support he was finally rewarded with the best loaf I've ever made.  The magic happened when I came across the NY Times recipe for "No Knead Bread" adapted from Jim Lahey/Sullivan Street Bakery.  His approach uses a sparse amount of yeast, many hours dedicated to fermentation and a pre-warmed cast iron dutch oven (I used my Le Creuset). 

The starter doesn't look like much
18 hours later out of the bowl, not kneaded
Going in the oven, pot has been pre-heated

Right out of the oven
Looks and smells promising
Success!

If you too, are in pursuit of a successful bread recipe, I recommend this one, but you do need about 20 hours from beginning to pulling it out of the oven.  The loaf has just the right crispness to the crust with a wonderful softness and airiness on the inside.  Whip out the butter and have yourself a meal!  Oh my...I just made myself hungry.
Failure is the condiment that gives success its flavor.  -Truman Capote

7 comments:

  1. What a gorgeous loaf! I want one. And the recipe.....Thanks for posting.
    - Barbara

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  2. Here's the link to the article and the recipe for "No Knead Bread." http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=950DE7D6113FF93BA35752C1A9609C8B63

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  3. Sylvia, I want that for my breakfast right now, please!!

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  4. OH! Sylvia! I have wanted to try that recipe for the longest time and I think you have FINALLY pushed me to do it! Thanks for the inspiration and sharing!~! ~ Monica zumFelde (your cruise friend from a year ago!)

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  5. I am a bread-aholic too! I stopped buying bread a few years ago and switched to baking fresh bread for my family every 2 - 3 days. I have tried the no-knead method and I like it alot. Mostly though, I let the bread machine do the kneading and then I shape, proof and bake manually. I have had great success with the 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread from the King Arthur Whole Grain cookbook.

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  6. So glad I'm not alone in the bread-aholic world! I don't think there's a BAA meeting handy. @Jen, thanks for the tip King Arthur recipe tip. I'm in pursuit of it.

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  7. Can I just come live at your house?

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