Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bread, the stuff of life

My new year's resolution: Make and eat lots of bread! Of course, this is hardly a stretch as I have been doing this pretty much all my life. I literally teethed on a frozen bagel and my dad has been a semi-pro baker for as long as I can remember... The Kodish cheesecake is legendary (if you haven't tried it, I'm truly sorry for you). Also, carbs are a staple of traditional Jewish cooking... carbs wrapped in carbs inside of other carbs served on top of yet other carbs, in fact. So, I think bread is just in my genes.. I like to imagine my insides are made of dough, not blood and guts.

San Francisco is famous for sour dough, of course, and I have been known to make a meal of an entire loaf of the stuff, seen above with clam chowder in it and being made at the famous Boudin Bakery. It is deeeelicious. However, ever since I have been here, and living with people other than myself, I have rediscovered my own fondness for baking. Having an appreciative audience is really all the difference for me. I can never seem to get motivated to do much cooking or baking for only old lonesome, lazy me. That's just the way it is, I guess. But now I'm sharing space with two other stomachs and about all I can afford to contribute is baked goods. So, one day I took out a box from my car and found a great baking book that my dad had given me. Inspiration struck!
I started with an experimental almond apple pie.. not bad, shoulda been sweeter. Next I moved on to a braided Challah loaf (hey gentiles, challah=egg bread). I must say, it came out amazing! Texture, flavor, and crust were spot on. We devoured that pretty quickly and at this point I became very cocky. I was a great baker! My people loved me! Then I tried a raisin bread.. meh. Danie said it was good, but I had high standards now and I was disappointed. Nothing a little more cinnamon won't fix next time, though, I think.
Then I picked up some supplies at Whole Foods for my next project, a rye bread. It looks great, I'll give it that, and it even tasted great, but... I think it was just a little underdone.. d'oh! This one really pissed me off because it was soooo close to being awesome. After this I needed to take a break from bread, step back and reevaluate some of my techniques. In the meantime, I made some pecan chocolate chunk cookies.. good, but just a little overdone this time. Shit! Strangely, though, they got better the second day. In fact they were really soft and chewy and excellent the second day.. turns out Danie had put a piece of regular sandwich bread in the cookie tin overnight and somehow, miraculously, that cured what ailed them. I had never heard of that old wives trick.. it's a goodun!

With that small victory under my belt I returned to bread making with a pumpernickel... a pumpernickel that just would not rise.. craptastic! I blame the yeast. Rapid-rise yeast sucks, just so you know. The dough just lay there, unmoving and sad, and I was sad, too... But I picked myself up by my apron strings and refused to let the dough beat me! Eventually, after a whole day on the floor in the sun, me keeping a keen eye on it (by keen, I mean obsessed), it rose enough (sorta, kinda) to warrant a baking. It came out OK I guess.. too small and the flavor (from unsulphered molasses) was a little weird to me, but it made decent toast anyway. After this debacle I needed a morale boosting guaranteed victory, so I made another Challah and some Challah rolls. Again, these came out beautiful and the loaf made it all the way to North Dakota. I think that may be the farthest and oddest trip any challah bread has ever made. 
Most recently I've made pretzels, potato buns, and knishes.. and I'm happy to say I was pleased with all of them. The potato buns and knishes, in particular, came out just how I wanted them to. Jesse and I made totally from scratch pulled pork sandwiches on the potato buns and the knishes made a great Christmas dinner side dish. I used my great bubbe's (grandma's) recipe for the knishes, which was pretty cool to think about. I think she would have been proud. By the way, one of Great Bubbe's favorite Yiddish expressions was one of the all-time great bread-related put downs: "lig in drerd and bock bygel". This means to "lie down in hell and bake bagels". As in, "You don't like it, you can go to hell and bake bagels!" How awesome is that expression, huh? Even the Jewish version of "fuck off" involves bread!

The point of this post was not really to show off my own amateur baking skills, though. It was really just to extol the virtues of bread, glorious, glorious bread! My single favorite thing to eat! I'm a little hard to please when it comes to my own baking (I demand perfection!)... But really, I love it all! I haven't met a bread I wouldn't eat everyday and twice on.. everyday, really. In all shapes, sizes, and flavors. As the foundation of a sandwich, as toast, in bagel form, with butter, just totally plain, whatever.. if it's made of flour and water, I love it and want to eat it. Bread sustains us! A world without carbs is no world at all... Amen.

Also this, I still love me some gambling:

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1 comment:

  1. I just want to say I love your breads. And although I use them irresponsibly (as a weight gaining tool), I'm ever so glad you make them.

    I feel like I can smell those knishes all over again.