Sunday, April 16, 2006
Insufferable Pretension, Part 5

So I'm a bit late. Sue me.

I've spent my whole morning up to my elbows in bread dough -- the family here does a dinner for most notable days, and it has somehow become my regular role to bring bread. (Not that I mind, I love baking bread.) Last night/this morning I was working on a slow-rise white bread that I usually use for pizza crust and foccacia. It's made of nothing but flour, salt, yeast and water, but it's a perfect demonstration of how four characterless ingredients can, when artfully combined, yield something sublime. This bread is amazing -- the trick is that a very, very slow fermentation in the fridge allows the yeast to break down the starch in the flour more completely, releasing a wider variety of sugars, and hence producing a more complex flavor than you usually get in a lean white bread. It's gorgeous -- with a little fresh unsalted butter, it almost has a sourdough-like twang. And I produced the best crust I've ever managed in this oven -- chewy and crackly, not the equal of a loaf produced in a good stone oven with a steam valve, but fucking good just the same. My only problem is that I've been having trouble regulating my yeast over the last half-year or so -- I bought a jar of instant yeast for economy, but the yeast inside proved to be sluggish. I lost three or four loaves to an inadequate second rise, which was frustrating considering the amount of work that goes into baking bread by hand. So this time I bought plain old packets, and this stuff is like rocket yeast -- the white rolls I made this morning practically turned themselves inside-out in the oven, trying to push out of the crust I'd so carefully gelatinized. Which is fine, except that now they're a bit fugly. Not that anyone will care -- the great thing about baking bread is that however cosmetically imperfect a loaf is, people will still clamor for a piece of it. You can't go wrong with bread.

I'm doing a second batch of rolls now, my faithful struan multigrain. The family snaps these up every time I bring them around, I get requests at every holiday. They're slightly wasted as rolls since this formula's highest calling is as thick-cut toast, but form must follow function, and at a big group meal toast isn't really practical anyway. Those rolls are proofing in the kitchen as I write this -- they still have a little bit further to go -- and by the time I'm done it should be about time to slash their tops and throw 'em in the oven. Baking is deeply gratifying, and I recommend it highly. Some people putter in gardens; some people knit; I bake bread.

Does that count as pretentious, or just homey? Strange, isn't it, that what was once the daily job of every woman is now a fetishy, pseudo-philosophical hobby. And yet the process itself hasn't changed at all.

In any case, I'm done with this now -- even I am sick of listening to myself prattle on about creativity. Next week: all pointless bullshit, all the time!

PS: In the end, the multigrain rolls came out so beautifully, I just can't bear to put my white rolls next to them. So only the multigrains are going to the family do. Still, we can't possibly eat all of what we have left -- I don't suppose anyone in Memphis would be interested in taking half a dozen ugly but delectable rolls off my hands?

PPS: Oh, also -- for the purpose of future-easy-indexing-related-programs-activities, I'm turning this post into an index for the whole schticky week. (Speaking of which, I really, really need to update that index... and all the fiddly boxes around the perimeter. Sigh.)

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
1:53 PM ::
Amy :: permalink
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