Thursday, October 2, 2014

Let's Talk about Bread, Baby

Let me start off by saying, I love bread. I seriously love bread. I pity you all you glutards out there, and I look upon atkinsians with derision and contempt. (Actually, if you are gluten-intolerant, you should probably stop reading right now, because this post is basically an ode to bread.)

Bread is awesome. (Not a huge fan of sandwiches, but that's another story to be told another time.) Bread is so awesome that there was a whole exhibit at the museum a few years ago dedicated entirely to bread that I had to go see as part of my degree (may or may not have had something to do with the fact that my professor was also the curator of that exhibit.)

I call this 'Pantry Cleanse' Bread
I do NOT love store bought bread. Haven't bought it for years. Feh. Ptooey. Yuck.

The difference between store bought bread and homemade bread is like the difference between erotic and kinky (erotic is using a feather, kinky the whole Am I the only one with that cultural reference? I hope not, because if so I sound weird.)

Store-bought bread, especially slightly old and stale store-bought bread, is sad. It tastes kinda blah. You just KNOW there's a million chemicals in it, it barely has any flavor, and they charge about 200% more than the cost of the ingredients. I don't get it.

It's a flower! It's the rosetta stone! No, it's tear-apart bread!

There's just so many things I love about homemade bread. Taste is just the know what? This sounds like a lengthy one. I'm going to make a list:
  1.  I love how cheap bread is to make.
  2. I love the aroma that wafts over the home when you've just made bread.
  3. I love kneading bread - you can really punch and get all your aggression out on it.
  4. I love how forgiving bread is - it's very hard to ruin bread. Trust me, I've tried.
  5. I love how the ingredients can be changed ever so slightly to make vastly different breads.
  6. I love how many things there are to do with bread leftovers (bread thrown out on the side of the road, as people often do here, makes me want to cry.)
  7. I love a nice crunchy crust.
  8. I love sourdough, both the eating and the making.
  9. I love how yeast is alive.
  10.  I love how there are so many customs, superstitions, traditions, and cultural significance about bread. 
Oh, also, I love how it makes the house nice and warm while baking. (I'm a little cold right now. It's only 23 degrees out there.)

I haven't always had success with bread. Oh yes. FEAR NOT OH YOU NON-BAKERS. I too, have failed. So many times. Seriously. So so many times. I've made bread that was hard as a rock; bread that was gooey inside; bread that didn't rise; bread that rose too much. I've done it all.

And I'm still here. Baking distinctly edible bread. So you can do it too, and if you're afraid, call me. I'll hold your hand.

As we walk off...into the sunset...though, um, not in a weird way.

For now, though, since I'm still doing that pantry cleanse, I'm not going to post a bread recipe, even though I baked one today. First of all, because I have about a gazillion bread recipes, and it would be hard to choose just one to post here; and second, like I wrote before - bread is so versatile and forgiving, that you make a slight change - and boom! different bread recipe. Which basically means that I have no idea what I baked today.

Instead, I'm going to post a bread pudding recipe. Because I had tons of bits bobs and the other of about a zillion different end pieces of bread in my freezer, and something had to be done about it. I used some leftover challah, a leftover muffin, a leftover (very stale) pita, and I think some savory nutty bread too. It came out delicious. (I'm going to start that diet...tomorrow.)

Mark Bittman's Bread Pudding

(Have I mentioned that MB just recently joined my line-up of kitchen gurus?  Welcome, MB.)
  • 700 ml milk*
  • 55 grams butter
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 100 grams sugar
  • 8 slices stale bread (or, approximately that much bread comprised of whatever is left in your freezer)**
  • pinch salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
 *Yes, ml and grams. If you don't have scale, go here.
**Yes, freezer. Always keep leftover bread in the freezer. NOT the fridge. It crystallizes in there or something.

  1. Preheat oven to 350F/175C. 
  2. Butter your baking dish - use whatever fits. Then break up the leftover bread bits and put them in there. Smush if necessary.
  3. Heat together milk, butter, sugar, cinnamon, salt until the butter melts. Pour over bread, let sit for a few minutes. MB says to 'occasionally submerge any pieces of bread that float to the top.' I says to shmush it. 
  4. Beat the eggs. Stir and shmush in with the rest of it.
  5. Top with the sugar-cinnamon topping.
  6. You want to bake it in a water bath - and if you're not sure what that means, you should probably consult one of my gurus - I recommend Alton Brown in the cheesecake episode. Basically, FIRST put in the pan on the oven tray, THEN pour in the water on the side while it's already in the oven. Do it wrong and you risk a watery death to your dessert (been there...done that.)
  7. Bake 45-60 min, or until it mostly passes the toothpick test
  8. Try not to eat it all and save some for your spouse so they can get fat too. 

 (The picture did not come out nice. Just picture something really appetizing and creamy and delicious here.

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