For you, the dress code is casual.

Monday, March 05, 2007

the Sick Little Baker

Ah, it's 24 day. But I probably won't watch tonight. I'll tape it for tomorrow.

I'm making bread. I started it last night. I'm in no mood to finish it, but I'll finish it because I have to. I'm sick AND tired at the end of a long day. I guess I have bronchitis now. Typical. I need me some new fucking lungs is what I need.

This is one of those artisan loaves. I made a starter yeast sponge last night, let it rise a couple hours, then tossed it in the fridge. Tonight I've sort of rushed everything thus far. I haven't kneaded it as long as it wants me to, for starters. I'l probably shortchange the kneading again in 45 minutes, when I'm supposed to tackle it once more. But still. It's probably going to beat the shit out of any bread I've had yet.

I want to master breadmaking though. Making dinner -- well, shit, I got that down. Done, over. Pretty near anything I want to cook, I tend to be able to pull off. Sauces, I still have some to learn about. Likewise with anything "delicate". But most dishes I can do. Quite competently.

It's easy. Fudge it. Granted, there are a lot of areas I need to expand in -- all the Asian foods, for instance, and Latin American, or any ethnic, really. I know one or two of every discipline, and I leave it there.

BAKING, though. Specifically: bread. Science. Absolutely art and science, but heavy on the science for the first god knows how long. THEN comes the artistry.

I want to get a really good book on bread, like the Artisan Baker, and just throw myself headlong into making bread. Thing is, as a passion and a past-time, you really can't get cheaper. For five bucks you've got 10 kg split between white and whole wheat flours. Add five bucks in yeast, and you can make yourself bread at LEAST weekly for two months. I spend $4 for a quality baguette, dude.

And the thing is, if anyone can master the art AND the science of baking, it's me. I know I can. I've appreciated the science of cooking for a long, long time. I get it.

Baking bread's interesting. It's kind of like love. There's this point at which you take your dough to, when you just know it's ready. You KNOW. But you never know until you've finally gotten there. Like anyone who's never been in love, they don't know what it's like. They also don't know what it's like until about 50 seconds before they get hit with that brick wall of "like, oh my god. I'm in love!"

Baking bread is like that, too. You should reach this point in kneading when you suddenly have this realization that you've kneaded enough. The bread will have this springy elasticicity. I guess you get this point where it just stops splitting and it moves a different way under your hands. I once knew what it felt like, but until now all the recent breads I've been making have been low-knead yeast breads. Quick, dirty, gets the job done. Now, though, I'm making character breads. Tonight's the first time I've really kneaded since I was about 12 or 13, baking in our old big kitchen as a kid. Pizza dough and the like.

I'm looking forwards to a culinary challenge. I'm enjoying the notion of learning this the hard way. I'll report on the progress.

Gee, I can even photo document the progress now that I have a working camera again! SCORE! :)

And in the meantime, I'm still sick. But hey. It's cool. Soon I'll have bread! Another 20 minutes and I'll knead again. This time I'll put more into it and hold out longer.

The only crime is... I have no butter. :( Seems a crime to labour all this time only to use margarine. No butter, tho, likely before the next pay period. I have serious pennies to crunch before then.

It's later now. The bread is in the oven! I've chosen to be a Bad Renter and go ahead and do the authentico steam method. I've been wanting to do this since I was 12! Mom vetoed the use of steam for making a baguette way back in the day. Now that I'm a renter, what's the worst that can happen? The building buys me a new stove. Two words: fuckin' a! Anyhow. I'm excited. Titillated, even! In six minutes the oven goes down to 400. In 35 or so, the bread is done. And I'm having homemade soup with my homemade turkey stock, some leftover asparagus, carrots, leaks, garlic, peas, and corn. Simple, but tasty. The stock smells incredible with that asparagus. $1.99 a pound the other day!