A fair bit of warning before you settle into this blog with the expectation that you’ll procure from it an expert’s opinion on the art of baking bread: At this point, I have no idea what the hell I’m doing.
To be honest, I’m much more at home in the kitchen when the bread has already been bought and I can put all my focus on preparing a delectable one course dinner for the evening, a task I convinced myself was more worth the hours or even days I would spend baking bread. Sure, there were plenty moments when I thought about how nice would it be to fill my home with the smell of freshly baked bread. To take in the puff of warmth that comes from tearing through that first slice. To actually consume bread with its own distinct flavor, its own unique texture and taste born from my own two hands.
Unfortunately, the lure of home-baked comfort was not enough to motivate me into a bread-baking frenzy. I can tell you what did do the trick though— the consciously-felt discomfort (otherwise known as guilt) of hearing Michael Pollan, author of Cooked, refer to the art of bread-making as a vital and, in some cultures like Morocco, sacred life-giving act. A once daily ritual rooted in communal experience of breaking bread together and the assurance that everyone can and should be sufficiently nourished. A ritual increasingly replaced with the unconscious inclination to throw any old chemically-injected plastic-choked variation of bread into our baskets for the convenience of a grab-and-go solitary meal.
So, after hopping on that guilt train I rode it all the way to baking my very first homemade loaf of bread. The first step: finding the easiest mouth-watering recipe I could find on the internet that also captured the comforting essence of home-baked bread. The result:
My first bread! Aptly, it’s a peasant bread (rising from humble beginnings as I hope to do), and one created using a recipe taken from, even more apt, another blog called Alexandra’s Kitchen. Formally she calls it My Mother’s Peasant Bread: The Best Easiest Bread You will Ever Make. If you’d like to start your own venture into bread-making with one that’s both satisfying and easy, follow the link and try it out for yourself. I can attest to its simplicity and also its great hardy texture which begs to sop up something like a warm butternut squash and parsnip stew or simply to carry a good slab of sage butter smeared thin. As of now, it is the best for me but, I admit, that may have something to with the fact that it’s the first and only bread I’ve baked so far.
I could probably go on about the how transformative the experience was and how pleased I was with the final product (both true), but I think for the purpose of this introduction I will keep my thoughts on this bread brief by summing them up in a haiku:
Bow down in your bowls
then rise to your golden fate
a marriage awaits
Because you see, this first baby step into bread-making has made me a committed woman and I am determined to see this marriage through, rising in the ranks to eventually become the ultimate master of bread-making! Or, at very least, gain enough confident to call myself a baker of sorts. I suppose the latter seems the more realistic goal which I hear is key for goal setting so…I guess we’ll settle for that one as the endgame.
Now I have 100 loaves to go and I’m giving myself until the end of next year to accomplish this task (though depending on how it goes I might keep going past the initial 101). Anyone who’s seen Julie and Julia or read the blog it’s based on is probably getting a familiar vibe from the challenge I’m giving myself. I admit it. I’m shamelessly borrowing inspiration from Julie Powell. And why wouldn’t I? As I understand, it turned out quite well for her. Though, you can guarantee that this won’t be your average food adventure tales blog.
Seldom will I deliver to you a step by step summary and analysis of my baking process complete with rants about lack of time or uncontrolled missteps in the baking process or how fat I’m getting from consuming too much delicious carb-packed bread. I’ll, of course post pictures and links/references to all the recipe blogs, websites, anthologies, cookbooks, magazines, and videos I have the joy of discovering and the pleasure of learning from. But, all in all, I expect this to be a very communal and immersive experience and, in some way, I want to reflect that in this blog. That is why I can’t promise any of my bread posts will follow the same format as the one that came before or after. One bread may warrant a reflective essay while another a poem. One a story while the other a picture of a rhino eating grass.
Also, going back to the warning I gave in the beginning, when I say I don’t know what the hell I’m doing, that goes for this experiment in blogging. I’ve seriously never done any of this before so I’ll mostly just be making things up as I go. If you’re okay with that, then feel free to stay on board. Now, please keep all hands and feet to yourself as we begin our initial transport to the land of the loaf.