Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Can’t Buy Me Bread

Last Fall the local French bakery, run by a young French couple, closed shop and, with it, their stand at the farmer’s market where I bought my bread, and moved onto the more appreciative climes of LA. That left what I consider to be the only worthy bread baker, but his business model doesn’t suit me: you have to remember, on Friday morning, to go online by 7:00 and wait for him to post the bread offerings for ordering and then pick-up the next day—at another prescribed time, 11:00 a.m.—at a different, less convenient local farmer’s market. If you are a little late, what you want may be sold out. Then of course you might forget to pick it up, if you, like me, get up early and are already well into your day by 11. Pity those who like to sleep late, too! They would have to set their alarm to order bread.

So while I have done this a few times, and it may all seem so quaint and local at first blush, I quickly tired of it. There was a tendency to feel like you had to order bread while you could, resulting in your buying too much—or settling for a bread you don’t really want if others were already taken. And of course, even when you set your phone alarm, missing either the ordering or the pickup for one reason or another. To say nothing of the somewhat soup-Nazi quality of the baker, complete with long—yup—bread lines for pickup. Not for me.

I absolutely adore bread, carbohydrates be damned, and from time to time over the course of the last 40 years or so, have made my own bread on a regular or semi-regular basis. Bread books take up a full shelf in my very large cookbook collection, and I can’t resist a new one (or a new old one if I come across something forgotten but interesting), and recently added the Forkish book after reading a lot of praise. I have several artisan books, so there’s not a lot new here, more of a synthesis, and I don’t know if it will become a favorite—won’t know ‘til I try the levains. But trying the first simple bread gave me a story to tell, so here it is.

Finding myself with a free day—amazingly, having finished project grading early—I thought, why not stay
home and bake bread? The whole thing is so simple that I had a lovely, relaxing day, reading and puttering between stages. I used a local Arizona heritage grain flour from Hayden Mills, mixed with a little first clear flour and dark rye, and adjusted the hydration to 80%. This was going to be good!

When the dough was perfectly proofed, I was just about to put it in the oven when: the electricity went out. Which means, of course, my oven did too.

I waited a few minutes—maybe this was just a blip?—but no. I looked out—everything, the entire city, was in the dark; we had been having a wild storm all day, the first rain in months. I put the proofed dough in the refrigerator. The oven went cold. Forty-five minutes later, the electricity came on, and I pre-heated the oven again.  By the time it was ready, my dough had spent about over an hour in the fridge, and it had suffered by becoming a little overproofed despite the cold. I knew what that meant.


They say every cloud has a sliver lining. Here is a golden one, complete with rainbow, snapped from my patio while waiting for the lights to come back on. And here is the bread. Worth another try.


racheld said...

How lovely that you're such a natural bread-maker! And what hoops the baker seems to raise for jumping---it sounds like trying to get a table at French Laundry.

My kitchen counter in our Mississippi house was a Brady-Bunch orange---sixteen feet long on the unencumbered side, and I can so remember all the kneading and forming on that cool smooth surface.

It's nice to see you back, and I hope you're well and warm through all this cold---we broke the all-time record for snow, then exceeded it by almost a foot, with still some cold to go.

And isn't it magical how rainbows trap the light beneath their colorful curve, as if it might escape---your picture is wonderful.

Spring is SOON!

and ckJsnl

Jane said...

Well and warm, always warm, here! I know it's been brutal there, and I fear it will be one of those years when spring never really comes, straight to summer. But that will come!

Nice memories of your bread counter. These breads are no-knead, replaced by folding a little. But a good counter for shaping is a must.