Meelyn, Aisling and I went to the public library today while Kieren was out on his first one hour drive with the instructor from the driving school. My sole purpose, other than getting another couple sacks of books, was to see if The Bread Baker's Apprentice had ever been returned (it's been, like, WEEKS) and if it had, to find it, and if it had not, to put a hold on it at the circulation desk.
Can you imagine my joy when I found that it was actually upstairs on a shelf? Waiting for me? And it truly was a glorious day, because the employee at the information desk not only looked the book up for me on her computer (the stupid computers that serve as the card catalog were down) and wrote down the call number on a piece of paper, she also said, "Oh, that's okay, hon. I'll run upstairs and get it for you" when I reached out to take the slip of paper from her hand. I know! The days of miracles are not yet over!
It was truly a delight to finally get my hands on this beautiful book. The photographs are gorgeous, the recipes look wonderful, and the text itself, written by author and baker Peter Reinhold, is very interesting. I sat all afternoon with my head buried in the book.
So! I think I may now be able to not only bake some bread, but also learn about bread. There was a piece at the beginning of the book when Peter was explaining how he knows when his students start to get it about bread: how they develop a feel for it and how they start to develop an instinct for what a recipe needs, not only because they know how each ingredient develops what will eventually be a perfect loaf, but also because they just know their bread.
I got a little frisson of pleasure when I read that, because I actually have started to develop that sense. Not because I understand how all the ingredients work together, you understand. And not even necessarily because I am one with the breadmaking process. No, I would say that I am more like one with my bread machine. I know from the way it sounds if the dough needs more water or more flour. I know -- because I've scribbled notes in the margins of my bread machine pamphlet cookbooks -- that I prefer 1 1/2 tablespoons of butter in the French bread recipe, rather than the 1 tablespoon that's called for. I've found out through trial and error how much flaxseed I can add to whole wheat bread to maintain a chewy texture and a nutty/seedy taste and how much makes the bread taste like something scraped off the forest floor, made of twigs, pine cones and dry leaves.
I'm really hoping that this knowledge will translate as I try to make bread the old fashioned way. And by "old fashioned" I mean "in bread pans in the oven" because? You didn't really think I was going to knead it myself did you? Eeeek!
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