Would you think less of me if I told we ate the entire first loaf in less than six hours? In our defense, we were mostly stuck inside with all the snow, but that first loaf of warm soda bread and salty butter in early March always tastes so good, it’s hard to stop with just one (or two, ok, three) pieces. I’d say it tastes almost like spring but given the two feet of snow outside that would be a big fat lie. But it still tastes really good like a leprechaun’s smile.
I made our favorite classic recipe with the girls, but I also tried a new recipe this year for whiskey soda bread. Despite, ample trials and evidence, every few years I start to wonder, “Maybe this isn’t the best recipe? Maybe I should try something else.” Nope. It is. And I shouldn’t. But can you blame me for wanting to try a recipe with the title Irish Whiskey Soda Bread? C’mon?!
Saturday was the first dominoes night of 2018 and we were hosting, so we spent most of the day just straightening and prepping and making sure there was no undergarments lingering in odd places and that all the dried food scraps were scraped off the couch. It took most of the day. Exciting pictures ahead!
Having people over whether for pizza or dominoes always makes me remember how under-appreciated and overlooked these relationships often are in our lives, especially for someone around my age. Children and family are vital and joyous, but they take a lot of physical and mental energy.
As parents, you are their sole caretakers and the world quickly shrinks down to the boundaries of your offspring. You spend most of your time together: in the car, in the bathroom(!), in the kitchen. It would be weird if that close-knit warmth didn’t sometimes start to border on maddening. The happy turns to harried, the harried to the routine.
That is why it’s worth the effort of folding the two week old laundry pile, sweeping the floor, and shoving all the miscellaneous junk into drawers before your friends visit. It’s a sanity check. It’s opening up your world a little bit beyond the edges of your kid’s lunch box. They will commiserate, they will sympathize, they will console, they will make sure you’re not drinking alone. In short, they will make sure you don’t go crazy. A few household chores seems a small price to pay.
They say you can judge a really good restaurant by how well it does a really simple dish. A simple dish gives the cook no room to hide. If the restaurant can do a really good roast chicken or pizza margherita than you know you are probably in good hands. Maybe we can say the same thing about cookbooks? If they can teach an amateur to make something simple or make it look simple than you have found yourself a good cookbook.
I feel that way about Ken Forkish’s Flour Water Salt Yeast. This is the cookbook I find myself reaching for most when I want a foolproof loaf ready for tonight’s or the next night’s (when I have my act together) dinner. These are not fancy or high concept breads, just simple, tasty, every day basics. If you can understand the concepts and follow the instructions for these loaves, you will not only make great bread but also have no problem with those fancy breads in other cookbooks.
One of my jobs for the Friendsgiving Potluck was to bring the bread. I originally planned to make Parker House rolls, biscuits and an herbed focaccia, but at the last minute switched out the focaccia for some cornbread.
So of course, the cornbread ended up being the hot commodity. People going so far as to take half eaten nubs off discarded kid’s plates to get a taste.
Sometimes you just need bread fast.
I like to plan. I operate best when I know what is coming. Changes or unanticipated surprises make me grumpy. Like when meal planning goes awry and we end up having soup or stew and I don’t the time or dough ready for bread.
Soup or stew without bread is only half a meal. It all makes me grumpy!
How often do you get a 50% discount on visiting one of the most expensive cities in the world? Not often and when you do, you don’t say no.
Michelle was asked recently to speak at a conference in Manhattan. With her expenses covered, I decided to tag along for a little adventure. While she networked, dropped knowledge and impressed executives, I wandered the streets and ate my face off for 36 hours.
I’m not claiming these are the best bread books, these are just the four that have worked best for me so far. They are the ones I reach for the most and the ones that I think about first when I want some bread. The best cookbook in the world is no use if it remains on the shelf.
If you are interested in baking fresh bread any one of these books will get you off on the right foot.