My Affair with Fresh Bread

I love bread. In my mind that Atkins low-carb fad was simply old school, Cold War, Ruskie propaganda. A twisted cult existing solely to warp the minds of decent working folks. Who doesn’t love bread? It’s damn near un-American. I mean c’mon, it’s made from amber waves of grain and a double shot of rainbows. It’s a wonderful thing and supermarkets across this great nation are perpetuating a crime against our taste buds with those plastic sacks of bland, uniform masses of preservatives and chaff. I’ll concede in moments of weakness and convenience I’ve bought a sandwich loaf, but I’ve never enjoyed it.

fresh bread
Fresh bread almost cool enough to slice

A couple of years ago there was a light in this bitter bread aisle of darkness. Mark Bittman and the NY Times spoke with xxxxxx about his low effort, long rest technique of baking artisnal loaves. Let xxxxx name be forever whispered in hushed and reverent tones. The No Knead technique caught fire and reproduced like a wilk spore across the Net. Dutch Ovens beware, you had a new purpose in life. You were suddenly the rock star of the kitchen. Free from the bottom shelf and the annual camping trip, you were reborn as sturdy apprentice in a cooking revival.

For too long cookbooks have spooked mortal men and women from attempting to bake anything but the simplest quickbread. Yeast was an alien lifeform. A pebbly, granulated mass sold in envelopes, bought in a moment of piqued curiousity and destined to pass the time ignored and eventually forgotten in the back of the cupboard. Yeast had to be dosed with sugar and gently woken from its slumber with a warm bubble bath and chamomile tea. It was finicky and untrustworthy.

fresh sliced bread
Fresh and sliced. Ready for the butter.

It was into this breach that the No Knead technique found a ready and willing populace. People hungry for good bread and fed up with the traditional alchemy of proofing, double rises and shoulder popping kneading. The No Knead technique bitch slapped that yeast culture and let it stew in it’s own chemistry. The tables were turned. We were no longer trying to placate the yeast. The yeast was working for us. With a little forethought, little effort, the help of a trust dutch oven and no kneading, you can have home cooked bread whose crust would crackle and sing. Whose velvety crumb would melt the hardest heart. This was a revolution. This was glasnost fresh from the oven and made to order.

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Still, I wonder. Was there an even easier way? I mean it still took some effort. Some planning. The little bread monster in my belly rarely gives me 18 to 24 hours notice. He just unhinges his jaw and demands to be fed. Now. Could I have home baked bread on demand? Could I really have Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day? Yes. Yes, I can.

I’ll admit I was skeptical. It seemd to good to be true. It smelled a little too much like ‘as sold on TV.’ Then again I would never be able to flip ‘n fold my laundry if I didn’t sometimes give in to my baser instincts. I’m still gobsmacked, but happy to say, that this book delivers on its title. I’ve only started with the first few recipes, but it really is easy and you can have quality bread in under an hour. The book is packed with varying bread recipes that build off the same premise. An extra wet dough stored in the fridge for up to two weeks can continually be used for rolls, boules and oblong loafs at a weekday dinner.


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