Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bread is the staff of life

Life is like a loaf of bread. Various ingredients - some development, maturation, even fermentation and then on a good aromatic crusty loaf of bread. We have a new breadmaker and suddenly I've discovered the joys of making bread. I hear some of the purists groan. Yes, it is not hard to bake bread. Yes, I could do it all by hand. But that is not the point. What is nice about the breadmaker is that one dumps in their ingredients and pushes a few buttons and a few hours later, you have bread. Truth is, I often use the dough cycle which means that about 90 minutes later, one removes said proofed and partly risen dough, give it a quick punch and fold, set it up in a nice loaf pan for a short rise and then bake it conventionally for a much nicer crust and shape. As well, now that I've been using Iris Katzner's famous sourdough starter - specially imported in for me - I let the dough have a loooong and slow rise, sometimes overnight and then bake it for a richly flavored, sour and crusty loaf. So, that's not so terrible really.

But you all know me well. Would I, Beth Steinberg be happy with just bread? Of course not. I am only happy with experimentation, fiddling, replacing ingredients, introducing new and different ingredients. You get the picture. In short, the breadmaker has just enabled the experience and made it more fun and demystified the process just a bit. And for Gabe and Natan and Ira, it's quite pleasurable to just dump in the ingredients and make bread. I asked my friend Miriam for her basic bread recipe and was shocked to discover that she uses the same recipe over and over and just adds in different flavoring agents - herbs and whatnot. Don't get me wrong, she makes good bread, I just couldn't wrap my head around one recipe. Then again, that's the secret of bread of course, simple ingredients, a few hours and magic, a loaf of bread.

Back to my original point though. Breadmaking is life distilled through the simple veil of flour, water and salt. You don't even need the yeast as you can make a naturally risen bread from those ingredients. Things like oil, eggs, sweetener, herbs and other fun addins are beside the point and quite unecessary, perhaps even muck up what makes bread perfect.

I figure that Gabe and Natan are midway through their fermentation and Akiva hasn't quite finished with his 'sponge' stage. As for Ira and I, we're well into the 'sourdough' moment, which hopefully will continue to bubble along quite nicely.


Lisa K said...

At what point in life does one actually get formed into a loaf and popped into the oven?

Beth Steinberg said...

Unclear, I guess. Could depend. What does Ralph say, since he's 50. Perhaps that's in the oven. Fully baked could take longer. We'll have to ask around.