Daily Breadstory: French bread

Here’s the problem.  Once I figure out how to make something, I no longer want to buy it, even if it’s a lot more convenient to.  For instance: bread.  It might be a different story if there were an amazing artisanal bakery within walking distance with really affordable bread.  There isn’t.  (Is there?  A secret one??)

So as you might have guessed, I have decided to make all of our bread rather than buy it from the grocery store.  My bread is cheaper and better, and I tell myself that since I’m here anyway during the day making it shouldn’t be too much of a pain.  Actually, I secretly know that until I figure out a good combination of recipe and routine, I will be stressed out about bread.  Bread!  This is the problem with figuring out how to make things.  And sweating the small stuff.  My secret weapon will be making mega-batches and freezing, I think.  And reminding myself that buying a loaf or two when time is scarce doesn’t make me a bad person.

So today, in search of the perfect daily bread I was going to try out Jim Lahey’s no-knead bread recipe, but the resting time of 18-24 hours wasn’t going to work for my schedule.  Flip a few pages back in Amanda Hesser’s Essential New York Times Cookbook, and you’ll find a magical recipe from 1978 entitled simply “An Honest Loaf of French Bread.”

Look at the honesty.  K walked in and was all, “It smells really honest in here.”

I’m lying.  That did not happen.

I know that baking is a science.  I know you’re not really supposed to screw around with a bread recipe until you know what you’re doing.  But since I’m me, I made a double recipe: one classic French loaf according to recipe, and one with a mixture of flour: all-purpose, bread, whole wheat bread, and rye.  The white loaf rose higher and had that classic French taste.  The guys liked the brown loaf better though – it had a deeper, more complex flavor.  I’m just glad I made both, since they were both super tasty and it’s just as easy to make two loaves as one.

Some breads are complicated.  This recipe was so simple that half the time I had a phone to my ear.  (I was catching up with Friend L, who’s living the dirtbag dream in Montana.)  I’m thinking the mixed-grain variety might be my daily go-to bread recipe, at least for the next month or two.  Depends on how well it freezes, and if it’s eventually trumped by any of the myriad other quality bread recipes from various other cookbooks in my possession that are screaming “bake me!  Bake meee!”

Sometimes the local grocery store loses its mind and sells overripe fruit for ridiculously low prices.  And we STOCK UP.  When they sell five-banana bunches for 75 cents, we buy all they have and eat banana bread for weeks.  Today they had avocados for 25 cents apiece, and I ended up with 15 of them.  What to do with 15 avocados that are seriously on the verge of being gross?  Turns out you can freeze avocado – mash with some lemon or lime juice in a freezer bag.  But make sure to save some out for guacamole, because even if you don’t have chips it goes really well with… bread.

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3 Responses to Daily Breadstory: French bread

  1. That is some seriously beautiful bread you’ve got there! Lovely slashes, great loaves. I’ll take your word about the taste, but I might just have to bake some up myself one of these days.

  2. teaandscones says:

    If you are anything like your mom, your bread will always be amazing. I like that you mixed several flours to get a deep flavor. Way to go.

  3. Debby says:

    You should try recipes from the book “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day” by Hertzberg and Francois. (And it really does take just five minutes!) Then, try Nancy Silverton’s “Breads from the LaBrea Bakery” and “Bread Alone: bold fresh loaves from your own hands” by Leader and Blahnik. Then, when you’re back visiting Hamilton again, order up some of Judy Gianforte’s freshly ground flour made with her organically grown local grains. You’ll never want to use anything else; your bread will send you to Nirvana.

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