Thursday, January 6, 2011

Following Up on A Tangent

Other suitable titles for this post:

"On Bread"

"Why I Am Getting Fatter (and it's not the fetus)"

"Artisan: The Man Behind the Bread Sticking to My Behind"

There's no recipe today. (Sorry, Charlotte!) (You probably don't want the recipes we've made this week: lentil sloppy joes and vegan fettucini alfredo with Italian-marinated tempeh crumbles. Both meals were pretty good actually, but, let's be honest, we all know you're about as interested in my vegan experiments as you are in my hot dog + cream cheese dinners.) Anyway, I just wanted to get back to you, kind readers, in case you were as concerned as I was last night (or less concerned, even a little concerned, barely concerned, not concerned at all but curious nonetheless) about what happened with my second - my freestyle - attempt at making bread.

Granola Bread

There it is. Hi, bread! Well, aren't you just adorable?

The good news is this: it turned out quite tasty. It wasn't a waste of ingredients (thank heavens, since they included pretty effing amazing homemade granola). It is soft, has a nice chew, and is just sweet enough - not hard, dense, and flavorless, as I had feared. It rose decently in the oven and filled the loaf pan, if not quite uniformly, and it turned a nice golden brown. (We did resort to using an internal thermometer to gauge when it was done baking though.)

The bad news, which is not really bad news so much as a set of observations all of which deserve a response along the lines of, "duh", goes like this:

1. Precise bread recipes provide more reliable results than imprecise bread recipes.

2. Precise bread making leads to bakery-quality bread, while imprecise bread making leads to "homemade"-quality bread (not a terrible thing, but not bakery quality).

3. My husband is an artisan, or is at least well on his way. I am a rookie.

4. MC's bread is easier to slice than mine. That there loaf featured above is a little, well, squishy.

I think the best way to illustrate the difference between my husband's supremely successful journey as a baker, as a Bread Baker's Apprentice, if you will, under the tutorage of none other than the guru himself, Peter Reinhart, and my own journey - granted, a journey of which we are only in the v. preliminary stages - is to show you some pictures of MC's handiwork. Before you look through these beauties, feel free to look again at the photos of my bread above. Then compare. And laugh a little. With me, not at me.

All the breads featured below are from the following books, both by Peter Reinhart:
These books are exceptional. If you want to master the art of baking bread, I recommend the former as a primer, the latter as an additional challenge, particularly if you are interested in working with whole grains. (Note: whole grains require a little more finagling in order to achieve a tasty, nicely-textured bread.) If you are already an expert, or if you are simply adventurous and prefer a more rustic, arts-and-crafts-like bread, this is the book for you:
Okay. Now to business. Introducing

"MC's Handiwork: A Gallery of Bread."
Edited and curated by Cake and Edith. Dot com.

Middle Class Brioche
Middle Class Brioche, Spring 2010

Cinnamon Rolls
The Best Cinnamon Rolls on Earth, Thanksgiving 2010

Cornbread with Crisped Bacon, December 2010

Casatiello 1
Casatiello 3
Casatiello 1 (minus one slice) and Casatiello 2 (toasted with butter), December 2010

Multigrain Sandwich Bread
Multigrain Sandwich Bread, December 2010

Portuguese Sweet Bread
Portuguese Sweet Bread, December 2010

Ciabatta, January 2011

And it all tastes even better than it looks, if that's possible. He's quite talented and obviously dedicated, isn't he? I am quite lucky and steadily thickening around the middle.


  1. Damn, I am good. Look at those things. Beautiful.

  2. MC, you ARE good, they look good and they are SO good!!

  3. That post was from me, Lisa...

    My husband doesn't make bread, so what's my excuse for "why I'm getting fatter??" I blame winter, stress, and age! Don't worry, I will fight back!

  4. I'd like to say I'm really interested in the bacon cornbread. Just an FYI.

  5. Hi Edith,
    Thanks for all your kind words about my books. I love your blog and your sense of humor. Can't wait to see your post when you make a loaf that tops your husband's. I love that shot of the casatiello loaf, by the way. He's doing some serious work there.
    PS As for Charlotte's comment, I love that cornbread recipe too, especially the bacon--isn't it the key to everything?!?

  6. Do you love that I am reading you blog to figure out what to make for dinner? I know Jason would love the bacon bread - I'm putting it on the list! Love you dear - and your sense of humor!