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on the downward side of the age mountain.

Monday, May 24, 2010

My Affair w/ Bernard or How I Learned to Bake Bread

NSSP has been on a rampage. The only bread that doesn’t go moldy in 2 days is the kind-of, sort-of, processed stuff. This morning was no different. Salivating about Sunday breakfast of sunny side up eggs, bacon and toast; he hit his carbohydrate wall.

“Look at this!” He exploded, “I’m tired of paying $4 for a loaf of bread to have it go moldy in a day! I don’t know why bread is so expensive it’s ridiculous!! ” He rummaged around in our bread basket and found some 3 week old pumpernickel. “See, this is good bread! Look at this! There’s nothing wrong with it!” He gloated and shoved some bread into the toaster oven.

I buried my head in the newspaper and took a swig of coffee. I found several things wrong with his rant. So I became the NSSP and had an inner dialogue. “There he goes again. As usual he doesn’t know that I pay $3 for the loaves or less. He never buys the bread. This is a prime example of why I keep him away from grocery stores. And anyway the artisanal bread is 3 days old and I’m working on my own reason for its hasty moldem. Is it from the starter? If I use bags that previously held moldy bread does it transfer to a new loaf? How can he possibly think 3 week old bread is good for you when it has calcium propionate as a preservative? Note to self nix the packaged stuff.”

I looked outside and noticed yet another grey day. “You’re in luck NSSP, Garrison Keillor and I will make bread today.” (Go play golf and you can quit whining!)

Truth be told, I like making bread. When we moved to The Edge I found the winter and spring months perfect for bread baking. Our triangular family would go through a loaf a week (unless NSSP was on a bread-gasm) so I could experiment.

Grabbing my 1973 edition of The Complete Book of Breads by Bernard Clayton Jr., I slowly worked my way through the book and learned his baking logic. Our Brittany Buzz gave me The Village Baker by Joe Ortiz his note to me inside said “Zees reminded me of my home country, Brittany.” This book was tougher going with various times to add the poolish, refreshments, and finally a dough to bake. I played with the book, and did master Ciabatta. I learned how the texture changed when adding old dough to new. I felt artisanal and lusted after a wood burning oven.

What about the world of Flatbreads? Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid came to the rescue w/ 1995, Flatbread & Flavors. I toured the world w/ Jeffrey and Naomi we shared Bulgur Bread with three Kurdish men; we skipped to India, Egypt, Norway, and beloved Italy. I had a great time! We crouched over fires w/ flat pans and bare feet. We gladly burned our fingers when we flipped the bread.

Rose Levy Beranbaum came knocking at my kitchen with another one of her epically researched cookbooks, The Bread Bible. This one was tough to wrap my bread head around. Up until now it was fun. The kneading was nurturing and I was getting wow ratings from the other 2/3rds. Rose brought Ed Nye the Science Guy into my kitchen. I told myself I should get more serious about my quest for the holy loaf but she deflated my dough. She wrote about weights and liquid percentages that Bernard breezily mentioned. I felt daunted and depressed. Kissing Rose goodbye I renewed my affair w/Bernard.

Lovers are fickle and affairs are meant to ebb and flow. I wanted to add a healthier note to family bread and embraced Tiffany Haugen with The Power of Flour-Cooking w/ Non-Traditional Flour. She bounced into the kitchen w/ rosy cheeks and blond hair the color of wheat. Not only did she use Amaranth, Coconut, and Green Pea Flour she did it with a tasty flourish. I was smitten and sure weight would fall, blood pressure drop and cholesterol would be a thing of the past. I also fantasized about being 10 years younger. None of that happened, silly me.

In the end I took up with Bernard once again and we made-


~Sister Virginia’s Daily Loaf~ with adaptations-
 
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Makes 2 loaves

2 1/2t dry yeast (1 package)
1/4C warm water (105°-115°)
1 pinch sugar
1C milk, scalded
1/8C sugar
2t kosher salt
4T unsalted butter
3C bread flour
3C all purpose flour
When ready to bake, pre-heat oven 400°

In a small bowl mix the yeast, water, and pinch of sugar. Let stand to proof.

In a small sauce pan add milk, sugar, salt, and butter heat until you see small bubbles. Remove from heat and let cool to 115°.

Add 3 cups of flour to a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. Slowly add the cooled milk. Add the yeast and 1-2more cups of flour. Knead for 2-3 minutes. The dough will be very tight and hardly sticky.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a floured work surface. Knead for about 5 minutes. It will be very stiff. When you poke the dough the impression will quickly bounce back. This means you have developed a lot of gluten.

Put the dough in an oiled bowl large enough for it to double in size. Cover w/ saran wrap and put in a warm spot until it doubles in size, about 1 1/2 hours. Remove the dough from the bowl back on your floured work surface and deflate and knead for 1 minute.

Place back in the oiled bowl and let rise for another 45 minutes.

Oil 2 bread pans. Put the dough on the counter knead briefly to deflate any big bubbles.

Cut it in ½ with a sharp knife. Shape into balls and let rest 5 minutes.
Form one ball into a flat oval roughly the length of the baking pan. Fold in half and pinch the edges together. Turn the loaf seam side down and fit into the pan. Repeat w/ second ball.

Cover and let rise until the bread has risen ½-1” above the pans. This should take about 50 minutes.

Bake the bread until they are crusty and brown. Tip onto a cooling rack. Test for doneness by tapping the bottom crust with your fingers if you hear a hollow sound it is done. If not put it back in the pan and bake a few more minutes.

When done remove the bread from its pans onto a metal cooling rack and let them cool on their sides.

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