Thursday is nearly over, but I wanted to write about bread, so I’m doing it this way.
1) I spent the day baking bread. Well, that’s not true. Twice today, I spent several minutes tossing the ingredients for bread into the bread machine and pressing buttons. But I spent the day smelling fresh bread being made, so it sort of counts, right?
2) My bread machine is a Breadman Plus, and was a joint gift from my mother-in-law and sister-in-law years ago. It remains one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. It has a jam setting that I’ve never used, though I have been tempted. I don’t really like jam though. I like marmalade. And lemon curd.
3) I learned my love of bread-making from my grandfather. He had a bread machine, too, of sorts. It was a large copper bowl with a hand crank, and it was meant to make it easier to mix the dough.
4) My fondest memories of my grandfather are of the times when we baked bread together. He would wear a blue calico apron with “Chief” embroidered across it (made by my mother – my grandmother’s matching one said “Chiefie”), and I remember him putting cornmeal in the bottom of loaf pans, and knocking on baked loaves to see if they sounded “done.” I was always amazed by the way his rough, thick-fingered, calloused hands could be so gentle with dough. But they were gentle in the garden, as well.
5) My grandfather was a great fan of James Beard. I’m not his greatest fan, but I love the way he wrote about bread. He said, “Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” I agree completely.
6) Just as I have a thing for beach novels, and coffee houses, I have a thing for bakery books. One of my favorites is Bread Alone, by Judith Ryan Hendricks. It’s a lovely story about a woman whose husband leaves her, prompting her to rediscover her love of baking, which began during an apprenticeship in France. Okay, I know, it doesn’t sound lovely, but trust me, it is. There’s a sequel, but it’s not as good.
7) Last year, when I visited my mother in La Paz (Baja Sur, not Bolivia) we found a Greek restaurant where the owner/chef bakes his own bread. He got me hooked on this rustic whole-grain loaf filled with pesto. It was amazing.
8) Sprouts sells a walnut raisin cinnamon bread that is to die for. It’s even better when toasted and slathered with honey-roasted almond butter.
9) My grandfather used to keep a special crock on the back of the dishwasher. It was his sourdough starter. I’ve never been fortunate enough to have anyone give me sourdough starter, but I have successfully done a wild-capture, when I still lived in California.
10) San Francisco style sourdough is special because of the type of yeast (wild captured), and the refreshment ratio (40%), but you can actually make it pretty much anywhere. However, true San Francisco sourdough is also special because you’re eating it in slightly salty, coastal air.
11) When Fuzzy is away and I really don’t want to cook, I often make a meal out of good bread, cheese, olives, and fruit.
12) In my family, Italian bread is the soft baguette that you eat with pasta, and it isn’t covered in garlic and cheese. We fight over the ends.
13) White bread (except baguette) never crossed the threshold of my house until I married Fuzzy. I looked at it in horror. He never bought it again. My favorite sandwich bread is pumpernickel. Especially if there’s liverwurst involved.
Bonus: “Blues is to jazz what yeast is to bread. Without it, it’s flat.” – Carmen McRae