Daily Archives: October 6, 2009

Artisan-Bread-in-Five Experiments, part IV: sandwich loaf (and Half.com!)

Just a quick note today, the latest update on my bread baking kick. (For those who have not been following these enticing and yeasty adventures with bated breath, this is about my now 2-week-old resolve to not buy store bread any more but to make my own through this really easy recipe that involves stirring up a batch of dough, leaving it in the fridge for up to two weeks, and hacking off a chunk to make bread whenever you feel like it.  No kneading.  No punching down.  No multiple rises. Easy. Previous posts here, here, and here.)

First of all, I finally did buy the book, which happily arrived in the mail the day before my library copy was due.  I got it from Half.com, which is usually the first place I turn when looking to buy almost any book or DVD, especially the ones that would be really expensive otherwise.  On a sustainability scale, I’m not sure how it balances out–on the one hand, you’re buying mostly secondhand or overstock items, although there’s some actual smaller-business direct retail going on too (common sense should tell you that if it’s “brand new,” you’re probably not buying used, right? If you want to buy secondhand, just stay in the “like new” and “very good” sections), which helps reduce new production of books/media and saves resources, and supports the small businesses who sell them.  On the other hand, you’re having it shipped to you, which has its own carbon costs of transportation and such.  Ultimately, I guess, there’s no impact-free way to get new books or movies (unless you’re No Impact Man), so all one can do is pay attention and make choices.

ANYWAY…so last night I tried my first sandwich loaf, i.e. bread actually in a bread pan and not freeform-boule-on-foil-on-the-pizza-stone. (Okay, so the book tells you to let your dough rest, then put it on a pizza peel and slide it directly onto the stone.  Even if I had a pizza peel, this is more effort than lazyspeedymama is willing to invest, so I usually just let the dough rest on a piece of floured foil and then move the whole thing to the oven after slashing the loaf.)

The book cautions that since the dough is so moist, one must must must use a nonstick loaf pan and still grease and flour it within an inch of its life if one expects to get the loaf out.  My loaf pan is silicone, and I’m not sure if it qualifies as technically non-stick, so I just took a deep breath and tried it. I don’t like the cooking sprays since they always smell more like chemicals than oil (which shouldn’t have much smell anyway), so I just drizzled a little sunflower seed oil in the loaf pan and rubbed it around. (These oils are a good moisturizer, too, by the way, so don’t be afraid of getting your hands oily!) The little bit of excess oil settled in the corners, which is exactly where I needed it anyhow.  Then I formed my loaf, using a lot of flour on the outside and making sure there weren’t any terribly sticky portions on the bottom, and just plopped it into the loaf pan and let it settle.  Went through the usual let-it-rest-preheat-oven-slash-top-put-in-oven-with-hot-water thing.

Needn’t have worried.  The loaf actually pulled away from the sides on its own while baking, and the oil gave even the sides a nice crispiness I didn’t expect.   Lovely sandwich bread. At this point I don’t see as hardship the idea of giving up store-bought bread–this is so much better that anything else would be sort of a letdown, and it’s easy enough to do almost daily.  (Put it this way: I was going to photograph the loaf for this blog entry, but there are only about 2 inches of it left after 5 sandwiches and my breakfast slice…)

Seriously, and I don’t mean to be all evangelical about this–I too feared yeast!  I too bought bread regularly because bread was one of those things I just lacked the time and skill and commitment to make, and the bread machine stuff was always such a disappointment that it only underlined my inadequacy! This book changed my life! (not to mention my carb intake, but that’s another story…)  (Okay, maybe a little evangelical.) I’d urge anyone who shares that feeling of awe at the Basic Staple Which Is Bread to check out the links on these posts and give it a try…


p.s. for those who aren’t theology geeks (which I hope is most of you; theology geeks don’t get invited to many parties, and even then it’s usually only the ones given by other theology geeks)–the Greek “Euangelion” simply and literally translates to “good news”–so I guess the evangelical tone of the above, under those circumstances, is fairly appropriate…:-)