Friday, April 28, 2023
You know what I talk about all the time and yet have never talked about? Bread.
It shows up incidentally in a lot of things I write, but has sadly never been the topic of its own … commendation? Celebration? Devotion?
It feels like a serious error in judgement, does it not?
Do I want to talk about bread? I keep wondering if my blog will turn into a food blog. Not even a cooking blog because some things you don’t have to cook to get emotive about.
Excited? Elated? Exuberant?
So many E words.
Well, since it’s my day off today I can ponder it.
God knows I have pictures.
I could do a whole photo diary of bread.
Which always begs the question, why is bread so good? It is the least amount of the dullest ingredients you could possibly mix together.
It’s basically cooked flour. You wouldn’t eat flour. Nobody looks at a bag of all-purpose unbleached and goes yum, gotta get me some of that!
Other stuff like bacon, even though you wouldn’t eat it raw, you still get that mouth-watering feeling of something delicious about to happen.
Flour doesn’t make me feel that way.
Here’s what’s in the loaf I’m baking right now: water, yeast, flour, salt.
That’s it. Not even a pat of butter or a spoonful of sugar.
But it’s one of the best recipes I ever found.
To be fair, I am currently only rising it, but in a couple of hours it will be a round artisan loaf of crusty goodness.
You know whose recipes never fail? King Arthur.
Seriously, I have been around the internet a few times and tried a LOT of recipes. I obsessively read reviews and aggregate similarities so I can get the best result. For instance, if a statistically significant number of people tell you to dial back the salt, I will dial back the salt.
Never trust anyone who says “this recipe was great, I just subbed butter for the oil and added peppers and didn’t put in the oregano but used mint instead.”
At that point is it really the recipe?
Where was I. Bread.
So the recipe I found from King Arthur is for bread you make in a cast iron Dutch oven, of which I have 2, because what if I want to make a small loaf sometimes and a big loaf sometimes, or if I want to make the stew and the bread at the same time? Things you need to consider.
The recipe gives thorough instructions and clear ingredients measured in grams because there is no recipe on Mother Earth that you can follow for a truly good loaf of bread if you have to merely hope you put the right amount of flour into a cup and didn’t make it too loose or too tight.
Water, yeast, flour, salt.
30 seconds in the stand mixer and rise.
It does take a bit to rise, but it involves no work, just patience.
I may have cut it kind of close today and not started it quite as early as I should have. But dinner will wait for bread.
I wasn’t planning on baking bread today. I baked a whole loaf yesterday, but we had friends over for dinner so I’d say at least three-quarters of it got eaten. Still, there would have been enough for us to have with dinner tonight, which I planned that way.
Tonight’s dinner is “all the things in the refrigerator that are left over plus chorizo”.
It’s one of my faves. I get the good ground pork chorizo from River Cottage Farm and mix that in with [everything]. Always potatoes. Usually peppers and onions. Sometimes tomatoes or corn or spinach or all three. If there is a little meatball left over or some pulled pork or possibly a bit of black beans and rice, it all goes in.
If there are leftover herbs, they go in.
Then I drop two over-medium eggs on top so you get a little squishy yolk goodness and serve it with cooked flour.
I mean bread.
You need good bread, it’s just a rule of chorizo hash night.
The problem is that I wanted bread today, before dinner. Ralph asked me to toast him up a slice with some jelly, so I did. Then I looked at the smaller-than-three-quarters loaf and panicked. What if I wanted a slice, too? Then there would not be enough for dinner!
So I yanked out the mixer and started a new loaf.
In a case of “all things in the universe are synchronous”, moving my bar off the kitchen counter and onto shelves has had the side effect of giving me a space to put my stand mixer instead of shoving it in the back corner on the floor of the pantry.
The up side is that it’s a lot easier to use it when I want to make bread. The down side is that it’s a lot easier to use it when I want to make bread.
Do you know what the only thing better than bread is?
Basically, it’s cooked flour, re-cooked. But something magical happens in that second cooking that makes it truly transcendent.
Why… why is this true?
I don’t argue with science. I just eat it.
This isn’t the only bread recipe I make but it is quite possibly the most delicious I’ve found so far. I have another standby recipe for days when I don’t have five hours to wait and need something in a pinch. It has water, yeast, flour, salt and honey. It only has to rise for 20 minutes. It comes out more dense and log-ish rather than airy and round, but it’s still delicious.
I make that for “omg I have no idea what to make for dinner so let’s just throw in some pasta” night.
Because I had to, I Googled “why is bread so good?”
Clearly I am not alone.
Reddit, that bastion of all things ridiculous and sublime, has an entire thread titled “Why does bread taste so F#$@%^& good?”
Quora has the same.
Plenty of people want to give you the scientific and psychological reasons why bread is the best thing ever.
There is some noise about it being nutritious, and having carbs that give you energy so we’ve evolved to crave it. There’s more noise about it being addictive and that if only you’d stop eating it you wouldn’t want it so much.
Yeah, I tried that. I have scientific proof that that’s ridiculous.
There are studies that have been done about aroma compounds and odor-cued memory.
It’s all rather exhausting and requires the consumption of bread to restore one’s energy levels.
I even came across an article explaining why cooked bread – aka toast – is even better than bread.
A lot of it revolves around the Maillard reaction which is sufficiently complicated that I am not going to attempt to explain it. It has to do with sugars and extra electrons and reducing agents and oxidation.
I’ll just have to live with knowing that the universe bestowed this miracle unto the earth and therefore I will honor it by eating all the bread.
We haven’t even gotten into bread adjacent foodstuffs, like biscuits and scones. Sometimes they are more appropriate to the purpose, say, if you’re making pulled pork, or you suddenly find yourself with some leftover lemon curd. It happens.
Maybe my blog will evolve first into a food blog then into a bread blog. You can never tell.
Until then, I am going to continue eating it with great glee.
Photo top: today’s loaf, rising. Looking deliciously pre-bread.
Photo bottom: you didn’t think I was going to leave you hanging, did you? Bread, fresh from the oven.