Friday, August 12, 2011


Chef once told me he loves to ask potential employees what they love to cook most; loves, that is, to watch them debate uncomfortably for the answer that he might want: something complex? credible? German? Without hesitation, i answered "bread" (to which he replied, laughing, "well, wrong place for you then, not happening").
So i bake bread on my days off, because it truly is the most enjoyable thing for me to create (risotto is a close second; it forces me to slow down, and softening garlic and onions is pure therapy). Today was a day off. And i baked bread.
It is not just something i do for kicks though, I am forever intrigued and frusterated with bread baking. The more i learn and understand, the more i hate to fail. And fail i do; my gosh do i fail. A number (any number, you choose, i cant bring myself to count) of loaves have been near inedible, yet eaten in spite, dense, burnt, off-ly sour, spongy, crust so thick your knife bends...but then there are the loaves that work. That rise dome like and have craterish holes in a solid crumb and crisp crust. Chewy, sour, rippable. Bread dreams are made of.
Tonights bread was not dream-worthy. Nor was it a nightmare. An unpleasant dream perhaps, the type you half remember, and even though you woke disconcerted from it, you still want to remember the details. Anyways, i know what went wrong, and that to me, is as satisfying as it is frusterating as a perfect loaf.
I overproofed the dough on the second rise. Following too closely to the directions and ignoring my gut feeling and experience, i let it go for an hour after i felt it was in need of retarding. And although it still rose perfectly, the inside was coarse, the holes like that of a sponge, instead of the type you can peer through that i love. Texture wise, it was horribly disappointing, especially after a day devoted to it; especially especially since i knew i was messing it up when i began to mess it up. Taste wise, however, it was perfect. I made it from a new culture, one that called for rhubarb and yogurt (from "beyond nose to tail"), and the tang, which was like a brief but very noticable prick from a pin, came almost as an afterthought. Like it was saying: hey betcha thought i was just bread. Well, surprise, i am a wild yeast sourdough with a lousy crumb. And i love him because of it.
It was still therapy, just like making many pots of shitty risotto was relaxing and enjoyable. Theres always toast.