I got out of Berkeley at the bottom of the dot com bust so I ended up working as a landscaping laborer. As could be expected I had a pretty hefty caloric demand but was light on cash. Furthermore our lunch breaks were also quite short (we bundled our paid breaks into a paid 30 minute lunch).
So my solution was to bring loaf of bread with meat in a can, usually Vienna sausage but anything would do. I tried to upscale this simple menu by baking my own bread. But I didn’t know what I was doing and had very little luck, though I did end up making a sourdough starter that made some awesome pancakes for a while.
Earlier this year, Jing read about sourdough pancakes in the New York Times. The thought of sourdough rekindled the old nostalgia and so Dara and I made a sourdough starter, which then lead to the old bread baking thing getting fired up again. In the intervening years the whole hipster artisan bread baking fad had started including the major innovation of baking in a Dutch oven. Conveniently we had acquired one on sale from the back of an Ace Hardware on Westheimer in Houston, even though it was used only once in the intervening eight years. Along with internet content, the library had Jim Lahey’s My Bread and Ken Forkish’s excellent Flour Water Salt Yeast cookbooks.
It took a week of baking every day to accidentally make a decent loaf that wasn’t hard as a rock. We danced around the kitchen that evening. And then two more weeks of baking every day to start doing it consistently. Over the past eight months I’ve been banging out lean breads about once a week – water salt flour (and accents like raisins and walnuts) – hearty stuff with a hard crust and varying crumb cause I’m just aight. But after she started buying bread (hint, hint) I broke down and decided to make an enriched bread this weekend.
Actually I forgot I was going to try an enriched bread yesterday morning until after the initial mix. But after all these other experiments and reading Ruhlman’s Ratio and Robertson’s Tartine books I’ve come to realize it’s all fairly improvisational once you got a feel for the basics so I threw in a little extra flour, milk, sugar, and butter. And after letting the guy proof all day I baked it at a nice sedate 350.
I woke this morning and tried a slice. And well here it is. The bread I dreamed about making 16 years ago.