An Ode To Bread

I’m gonna plug my Joke Blog again. I’m sorry. We have a new joke today and it’s:

What language do nomadic Chinese people speak?
Meanderin’.

Zing!

We will post our home-cooked jokes every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday – The Sunday Brunchline – as well as occasional “bonus jokes.” So, you know – check it out!

As you know if you know me or are a regular reader of this blog, as you may know if you’re just an acquaintance or an occasional reader of this blog, or as you don’t know – nor care about – if you have never met me and have never read this blog, I love bread. “Hey sure,” you say offhandedly, as is your habit, “everyone loves bread. It’s bread! It’s soft and crispy and fluffy and delicious and smells like True Love when it’s baking. What’s not to like?”

I understand that. I do. But I don’t just love bread. If you love bread the way a man loves his dog, then I love bread the way a man loves his dog after the dog saved the man from a burning building, nursed him back to health, learned to speak and write and wrote a Broadway play about his love for the man. That’s how much I love bread; possibly even more so. Jessica craves ice cream with some frequency; me, I love ice cream, and will not hesitate to devour a bowl of it when one is placed before me, but I never crave it. I crave bread.

By the way, I’m just kidding with all that condescending stuff about you not understanding my love for bread. That is not my way. I was merely framing my argument thusly to give you an idea of just how deep my love for bread goes. Because it goes deep. Real deep. I’ve talked before about my mom joking that I should have been named Bread, about how my Spanish teacher in Guatemala called me Pan, and about how some of the kids at the preschool – and some of their mothers – call me Bread. It’s a trend that knows no age, no gender, and no creed. People know I love bread and they’ll point it out at any cost. And you know, that’s just fine.

And I think it’s this connection to bread that makes me want to make it so bad for my wedding. I mean, imagine (if you will) sitting down to dinner and finding a coupla these babies on your table, all sliced up and served with butter:

Are you imagining yet? I mean, I even gave you a visual aid with which to assist your imagineering. So there’s no excuse, really. Unless you have issues with wheat, in which case, do not imagine this.

The above is called “Tassajara Yeasted Bread,” and is the basic recipe from the marvelous and classic bread book The Tassajara Bread book. Originally printed in 1969 (in Berkeley!), the book was born at Tassajara, a hot springs later bought by San Francisco’s Zen Center and turned into a meditation center; it has inspired countless other bread books and individuals to start making their own bread. It’s written with a kind, gentle voice, and communicates the well the joy of making bread by hand.

Jessica gave me the book perhaps a year ago, and I’ve only recently started to delve into it. My bread standbys are The Joy of Cooking’s buttermilk potato bread, a dense, moist, incredibly rich bread, and an online recipe for honey whole wheat bread found here. Both of those are fantastic – but after making the above for a BBQ last weekend, I think I’ve found a winner.

It’s incredibly simple, ingredient-wise – yeast, water, flour, salt, and oil. That’s it. The book is big on exact numbers and strict procedure – 100 strokes with a spoon, knead 200 times, throw bread pans into the oven from a distance of 20 feet while standing upside-down on a couch made of moonbeams* and such – because it’s all part of the science. I flubbed it a little bit, to be honest, and wasn’t super exact with my counting nor with my folding; but it turned out perfect. Dense, moist, flaky crust, and though it was mostly whole wheat flour it wasn’t dry or crumbly. At the A’s game the next day I made a sandwich with the bread, with avocado and heirloom tomato as the filling, and it was almost as delicious as the A’s 5-2 win over the hated Angels.

*[This last one is very difficult.]

All this to say, in the last couple years, making bread has meant a lot to me. It’s always the first thing that comes to mind in a potluck situation; it makes the house smell amazing; and it’s just better than store-bought bread. But really what takes the cake is the process. There’s so much I love about making bread, from the kneading (meditative) to the rising (encourages patience) to the punching down (cathartic) to the slicing (so very satisfying) to the baking (goddamn does it smell good). It’s a very comforting thing to make bread.

If you’re reading this and have never made bread: you should try it. It’s actually very easy. All you really need is some yeast, flour, water, and a chunk of time. It’s so rewarding you’ll wonder (like I did) why you haven’t been doing it forever.

I’m not sure if it’s actually reasonable to think I could make enough bread for my own wedding. But I intend to try my darndest. And I’m thinking of making the Tassajara Yeasted Bread (some loaves with sesame seeds, others without). Because honestly, it’s the perfect bread.

Love,

Bret

PS – thanks to Drew for the ANYWAY logos. He made me some MEANWHILE ones too!

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5 responses to “An Ode To Bread

  1. Can’t wait to see the Meanwhile ones!

    Those Anyway ones are pretty damn sweet!

    And now, I want to try and make bread. I want to make a loaf of bread and break it with my brethren. I don’t know what I’m saying…

    Ok. What I’m saying is- this makes me want to experience the joy of baking, kneading and couches of moonbeams.

  2. I’m sorry, I just came here and read the ANYWAYS and then commented. I may or may not get around to reading those other parts of your posts. I’m sure they are just lovely.

  3. Tell about Bread-and-Butter on the baseball team at Berkeley High.

  4. Brilliant.

  5. Mmmm. Bread. [Read in Homer Simpson voice.]

    Love the “anyways” and I am looking forward to “meanwhile.”

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