We’ve been experimenting with homemade bread at my house, working from the Rocket Bread and New York Times recipes that have gotten so much attention in the food blogosphere. These simple recipes require at least 24 hours of waiting time, but only about 10 minutes of working time and a total of 45 minutes to an hour of actual baking. And, though of course the results are delicious (especially fresh out of the oven, with a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil), the best part is really the smell that wafts through your house while the bread is in the oven! It’s also pretty easy to make a loaf or two per week, and drastically cuts down on the cost of bread. Plus, you can experiment with a variety of different herbs, nuts, fruits, wheat and white breads, and flour-to-cornmeal ratios.
Homemade bread with Broccoli Pine Nut Soup.
This week, Eric made use of our first little “crop” of oregano, along with some rosemary kindly given to me by one of my favorite emeriti, and created a richly fragrant herbal bread. He either didn’t include enough yeast, or our yeast is a little old, though, because the loaf didn’t rise spectacularly from my new, rectangular metal pan as expected. However, it was eminently edible, and I had a slice this morning, toasted with butter.
We also tend to like sourdough best, so we let our bread rise for at least 24 hours, often longer. So, this activity is really perfect for lazy procrastinators who happen to like fresh, homemade food. It’s like the anti-croissant. I must mention here, of course, that the very best sourdough toast I have ever eaten is served at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco!
After I made my first boule (pictured at top), I was sold. I vowed never to buy bread again. I couldn’t believe it was so easy. Like it’s cousin, beer (or, as my partner calls it, “liquid bread”), bread is often a bit intimidating to the home cook; it’s so fundamental and, like other forms of baking, seems to require more magic than just following the steps in a recipe. And this is true. Baking bread involves science: chemical reactions, timing, experimentation. But since all cooking is, after all, a form of art, it makes sense that baking bread is not simply a matter of mechanically following instructions; it is also alchemy.