You may have noticed that with fewer than 10 days remaining in this 365 day project we’re getting a little lackadaisical. Can you blame me for rolling my eyes when this is the seventeenth mention of ice cream on the food list? Sure, we haven’t blogged about every single one, but we’ve covered several, ranging from Rumon’s Ice Cream and Violins Day to J’s mouthwatering Chocolate Raspberry Ice Cream Sandwiches.
I think we’ve got it covered.
So, today I am “waving my magic wand” as we say, and decreeing that September 22nd be dedicated to something more wholesome: Bread.
Participating in this blog has fueled my interest in bread-baking. Previous experiments with sourdough starter and home-baked bread wistfully convinced me that I really didn’t have a bread-baker’s schedule, but I’ve never been able to shake the desire to bake, and the blog has only magnified it. I can’t count the number of times since reading J’s Cinnamon Roll post that I’ve reminded myself to buy the Tassajara Bread Book, nor can I count the number of online bread articles that I’ve lovingly saved into my bookmarks folder.
Eva didn’t know this. She also didn’t know how much I enjoyed her blogs on Sourdough Rye and Homemade Bread. Yet somehow she was inspired to buy me “My Bread” by Jim Lahey. I swear she didn’t know I had pored over a half-dozen articles about this guy and his breads. A couple of nights after gleefully receiving the book I sat down and read it cover to cover. Then I bought bread flour and started baking.
If you’re not familiar with Lahey’s basic method it is quite phenomenal. You mix wet dough using a teeny amount of yeast, let it sit for 12 to 18 hours, fold it over a couple times, let it rise for another hour or two, and bake it inside a pre-heated dutch oven or similar lidded vessel inside your oven. No kneading. No fussing. The result is a beautiful crusty boule with a rustic, chewy crumb.
There will be times when you want a soft, fine crumb, and times when you want the ritual of kneading. There will be times you need a loaf in a few hours rather than a day. But the effort-to-outcome ratio on Lahey’s recipes is astounding, and it’s great to have recipe options that don’t gobble up big blocks of (active) time.
I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s full of instructive photographs and helpful guidelines. Beyond the incredible assortment of bread and pizza recipes in the book, he offers up instructions for making condiments and sandwich fillings as well as recipes to make use of stale bread.
To get familiar with his techniques I started with the basic bread. My second effort was the Pizza Bianca – a foccacia-like flat bread baked on a pizza stone. The hardest thing about all this baking is deciding what to make next.
So, I offer great thanks to Eva for giving me an easy outlet for my baking desires. And of course to Jim Lahey and all the other tremendous bakers out there who will inspire my efforts for years to come.