Friday, November 2, 2012


My Multigrain Bread
There is absolutely nothing to beat the aroma of bread baking, unless is it is the taste of the first slice you’re allowed once the bread cools.

November is always National Bread Month.  What better month than this to start a winter of wonderful bread baking.  I came to bread baking in my early thirties. My Mom wasn’t a baker at all.  After my Mother-in-Law died – and I still miss her like crazy – I got her recipe book.  She wrote all the family recipes in a marbled, black and white composition book.  As I do now, she had her own Mother’s daily bread recipe in her head, but I thank the stars above that she thought to write it down. 

Frank remembers when he’d come home after school, bringing along a friend or two.  There would be fresh bread and homemade grape jam for their snack. No butter, it was war time, but they hardly needed butter. After a while they’d be off doing whatever it is young boys do, and that was left on the table were a few crumbs and a knife resting in an empty jam jar.

I began experimenting, and I finally got the hang of bread baking. The original recipe was for white bread – plain, wonderful white bread. It is, of course, what I do best.  After all these years I can tell, just be the feel of the day, how much flour to use, how long it will take to rise. You may have to use a bit more flour to tame the sticky dough, but bread rises faster on a rainy day than a fair one: lower barometric pressure lets the yeast do its thing more easily.  Reading and experimenting, I’ve devised many different recipes for myself for breads from multi grain to to-die-for Pecan-Raisin bread.  

Of late, many of the food and shelter magazines have had wonderful spreads (of course!) on artisanal bread.  Frank will get a hold of one of the articles, and read it and tell me how easy it looks. I’m sure it is, but it seems to me that to do up these breads with their various starters, bigas, mother doughs, and the like, you almost have to go into regular production.  The starters have to be maintained, and I just don’t make bread regularly enough now, in our old age with our smaller appetites, to warrant the bother.  From start to finish, I usually have bread in about three hours.  Once we devour the first, fresh slices, the rest, properly bagged, goes into the freezer where it keeps wonderfully.

I am a bit put off by the “holier than thou” stance taken by some bread bakers.  You’ think they were building a fine Swiss watch.  Yes, you might want to follow their methods scrupulously if you are a newbie, though all I had from my Mother-in-law were the basic ingredients and instructions. There are the rapid-rise vs. the regular-rise yeast fans, and there are the weigh-the-flour vs. the measure-the-flour fans.  Arguments abound on how much, if any, sugar to add, and which salt is best; how long and where to let the dough rise; what pans, or none, to use to bake it. To me it is much ado about very little.  If you think you might take up bread making, you’ll soon know all the ropes, shall we say.  Experimenting is half the fun, if you go by the starter method or the fresh yeast method.

I make the bread as we need it. We do get a ciabatta bread or a nice boule every once in a while, and we couldn’t do without English muffins, but basically we rely on my own baking. During this November I’ll bring you three more posts on bread: Bread Basics, the Pecan Raisin Bread story, and, last, a tale of a bread disaster. 




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