Friday, April 30, 2010

Bred to love bread

Yeah I admit it – I love bread. I know it’s not the most health conscious thing to confess to these days, unless you are an athlete burning 6000 calories per day. Now, high protein, ultra low-carb diets are all the rage so there is little love for the loaf anymore. Still, if the growth of specialty sandwich shops is any indication, there are still quite a few of us bun-lovers whose devotion won't waffle to the irritatingly healthy naysayers.

My first foray into flour was when I was around 12 years of age. My father walked in the door after work with a gift for my mother of a bag of Sourdough starter. Dad had apparently purchased this goo from a friend in his office and seemed oddly proud of his acquisition. Like any pre-teen, my first reaction was to secretly snicker because by all appearances my father had just paid good money for a bag of PUKE. Despite the stuff’s weird smell, my parents assured me it was valuable containing yeast, flour, water, and a little sugar. With a little care and feeding (literally) it would unlock the ‘secrets of the sourdough’ where bacteria meets baking – Oh boy?

As you can imagine, the resultant sourdough loaf from that first experience was amazingly delicious and I was hooked … yes I’ll say it out loud – I had a Yeast AFFECTION. Aside from dabbling in donuts on Sunday mornings with a cup of coffee, my professional life with bread did not begin until 8 years later while in college. I learned to make many types of bread and experiment with varying amounts of yeast and dough varietals. Usually I was paired with a journeyman baker so I was restricted to the mundane white, wheat, rye, Italian, squaw etc. The older bakers had long lost their desire to play with their food but they helped me every day to become a better baker. Quality was not a catch-phrase with these folks, it was a religion. Within 6 months I was the only apprentice baker to receive a recurring solo shift on Sunday mornings – the slowest day of the week. Still it was MY day to be in the driver’s seat and I took every advantage to FLOUR and germinate my love of the oven.

The poor customers on Sunday’s never knew what to expect. The addition of blue, yellow, and red, food coloring to the proofing process, would combine and create ‘CIRCUS BREAD’ when cut open. I would wrap a continuous snake of Danish dough so that when baked it would expand skyward to form a cone I dubbed the ‘Cinnamon Tower’. I would mix wheat dough in a distinctive ‘S’ pattern encapsulated in a shell of white dough. When two small loaves were baked together it would form the yeasty lobes of “BRAIN BREAD”. The owner NEVER restricted my creativity as long as I always completed the standard production schedule FIRST and basically could get the ‘Deli’ girls to sell whatever other weird stuff I made. Let’s just say I had to ‘buy’ more than a few odd creations in that job to keep my boss happy. He understood though – he was a former baker too so he never panned my efforts - I guess he knew it was to be expected when you are clearly “IN-BREAD”.

1 comment:

  1. Gee-How creative baking can be!
    I was especially enchanted with your baking loaves of BRAIN BREAD.
    What I want to know, however, is:
    How the heck did you get a loaf of that
    INSIDE your HEAD???