Bread bitch

lovely, lovely breads

A recent email:

Folks – please know, be apprised-cognizant, advised and fully aware — that the birthday bread brought to us by y’all is beyond stellar.

Albeit fleeting (i.e. — we’ve almost ate it all due to its greatness) the aforementioned bread with huevos in the morning has simply yielded higher quality of life. (My typical breakfast entails English muffin with egg on it) Let it be known to you that your bread is superior — far superior to Thomas’ product.

Hasta pronto amigos,

John

magic cinnamon raisin loaf

What bread used to look like (on left); And with a little not-so-gentle heat applied (right).

So the wife’s been calling me her bread bitch all year,  ever since I took up the challenge of working through a book that serves as a teaching course in breadmaking.

But she’s wrong.

I’m Josey Baker’s bread bitch. Josey’s the guy who wrote the book. But that’s not doing it justice. He’s the guy who taught me I could take some flour, and some water, and some yeast, and some salt and turn all that into a melt-in-your-mouth loaf, with a dark, hard crust, on par with the stuff I’ve eaten in Europe. He’s, perhaps most importantly, the guy who taught me how to bake a cinnamon raisin loaf that is lights-out. (Just ask my buddy John, up there, who is sadly resorting back to Thomas’ product, I’m sure.)

I don’t usually even like cinnamon and raisin bread. I barely like either of those ingredients on their own. But there I was, diligently working through the recipes in Baker’s book, all planned with graduating difficulty — through two-part mixes, through sesame hearth loaves, through what I thought would be my favorite — an olive loaf.

I screwed up more than a little. Forgot to pre-soak sesame seeds overnight. Forgot to toast the sesame seeds before pre-soaking them. Not sealing the dough tightly during its final rise, leaving the edges too crusty. Hitting the side of the Dutch oven instead of plopping the loaf right in the middle.

Jenn started ignoring my tantrums:

Me: OH NO! I’VE RUINED IT!

Jenn: [not looking up from her book] Uh huh.

Me: NO, I’VE RUINED IT! I ADDED LUKEWARM WATER INSTEAD OF COOL WATER! IT’S DONE FOR!

Jenn: [not looking up from her book] Uh huh.

Me: Fine, but I just want you to know we won’t have bread this week.

Jenn: [not looking up from her book] Uh huh.

She was right. It came out fine every time. A little under-baked in the center one time, but still pretty good. And I haven’t mastered slashing the dough to make a nice “ear” before baking it yet, but apparently I’m not alone in this. But every loaf has been at least good, and most have been great.

lovely, lovely breads

OMG! NOMNOMNOM!

In summary, either bread is a lot more forgiving than I thought, or I’m pretty much a genius at making it.

Where was I? Oh yeah …

There I was, working through all those early recipes. Forty-seven pages of lessons. And then I hit the cinnamon raisin loaf. And then I made it again. And again. And again. (I should mention that, by this time, I’m making two loaves at a time.) It’s the last recipe in the section, before I jump into “Taming the Wild Yeast/Sourdough,” which probably hasn’t helped my motivation to move on. But mostly it’s just the delicious simplicity of this loaf that keeps me hitting the repeat button.

Even though Josey’s my mancrush right now, I’d be remiss if I said the book is perfect. He doesn’t give explicit baking times or directions for hearth loaf vs. loaf-pan recipes each time, which will send me spinning back a few recipes to try and cobble together the proper times and temps. And I’ve found him skimping on the directions in some places, which is uncharacteristic to how he starts things off. Granted, all these “faults” are, I think, to an end. He wants you, the baker, to start figuring out stuff on your own.

But I definitely need more help with making a sourdough starter than he’s giving me. I’ve tried two batches now, and what I’ve concocted in the Dew Abides Laboratories is the stuff of horror movies. Call me crazy, but I refuse to scoop off a little bit of Freddy Krueger’s face and mix it in with some bread flour. It’s the first time this year that I’ve had to resort to the Googles to find out what I’m doing wrong. If anyone’s curious, as near as I can tell, the house is too warm and the water-to-flour ratio has been too high in my starter mixes. I’ll report back when I have the gumption to try again.

Which may be a while, because I just finished a couple more loaves of cinnamon raisin magic.

A delicious sesame hearth loaf. Imperfections make more interesting loaves of bread — and people — in our humble opinion.

A delicious sesame hearth loaf. Imperfections make more interesting loaves of bread — and people — in our humble opinion.

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