Monday, May 11, 2009

The BBA Challenge (Bread Baker's Apprentice)

Kayte has dunnit again.

She knows that I can't resist the allure of joining a new internet group and meeting new people, especially foodie people. Internet groups are lovely because you don't have to leave your house to have all kinds of fun, and before you all think I am some kind of beardy-weirdy hermit with shrubbery growing over the windows, let me just say that every mother knows what I'm talking about: it's hard to find the time to get away to go to this meeting or that meeting in the evenings, no matter how much you'd like to. I mean, an evening meeting could be bunco or a book discussion group or whatever. It's just hard.

This particular internet group is going to be baking its way through the book The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering the Art of Extraordinary Bread. I thought this would be a nice group to join as a summer project for Meelyn, Aisling and me. Last summer, if you remember, we joined Shari's Whisk Wednesdays group at Kayte's recommendation, which is (still) cooking its way through Le Cordon Bleu at Home; we had to drop out of that group when the school year started because of the pressing demands of high school work, but it was certainly a lot of fun and we all learned a lot. I wish we could re-join them this summer, but they've all moved so far ahead of our bumbling efforts in technique, I think we'd be left in a state of constant befuddlement.

So this summer, we're going to study bread. I like this group already because it is very loosely configured. Some groups are very strict about posting results and pictures on certain days and making sure that you do a certain number of recipes, allowing for the fact that you might fall ill and have to miss a week here or there, although they do require you to write letters of apology to every single other member of the group, as well as the publisher of whatever cookbook you're using. Or I may have just made that last part completely up. But anyway, some groups are stricter than others.

I have always really enjoyed baking bread, at least as soon as I got a bread machine. I carefully checked this out with Kayte beforehand: "Will they let me use my bread machine for all that kneading and rising and kneading and rising? Because I can't do all that with my own hands."

She said that it would be okay, so I heaved a sigh of relief. I have been to Connor Prairie before and I've seen those living history docents doing all that back-breaking work with the bread and heard them tell about how many loaves pioneer women had to make to get their families through the week and nuh-uh...not for me. There is only a very faint bit of the artisan in me; I am ALL ABOUT THE MACHINE.

Since I don't yet have the book, Kayte is going to bring me the recipe for the first bread of the challenge tomorrow when we see one another. Our first challenge, then, is for Anadama bread, a New England mainstay that historians seem to feel was made for family consumption in around 1850, although it wasn't sold commercially until 1871.1 Anadama bread's main ingredients that make it the well-known bread it is are molasses and cornmeal, combined with the usual flour, yeast, water, salt and butter.2 I may have to fiddle around with the recipe so that it won't overflow my bread machine's inner pan.

The girls and I will post our results for Anadama bread here as soon as we have 'em!

You can read about our Whisk Wednesdays adventures, my experiments with Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours cookbook and our new BBA Challenge trials and (hopefully few) errors in the side bar titled "Family Cooking" -- just scroll down on the left hand side of this page to find it.

1"Anadama Bread", Food Timeline: Breads, May 11, 2009
2Ibid, May 11, 2009

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