I'm beginning to realize that these posts about the breads made from Jim Lahey's book could get pretty boring and old. After all, every one I've tried so far has been great - but not just great, tremendous, and even then I'm starting to run out of complementary adjectives. But each and every bread that I've tried has been so miraculous that I still really can't believe I'm pulling this stuff out of my oven.
This one was obviously no different. The crust was even better than normal, probably because there was a sly addition of bacon grease. Yes, you heard me, bacon fat. I feel kind of funny always walking the line between vegan and animalistic ways of cooking, but those of you who know me can attest that I do procure the best meats that I can. This bacon came from the same hog that the rest of my pork stores did, the same animal also feeding my Parents. While staunch vegan readers may audibly gasp at this, I personally do not have a problem with it. I'd probably prefer to go full vegetarian and/or vegan, but my carnivorous Husband would then most likely resolve to eating every meal somewhere else, and that does not a happy home make!
And besides, who am I kidding. Bacon? R1 suspects that even vegetarians crave bacon. Lahey's original called for pancetta, but used bacon as a substitute and if you think that adding bacon to bread could make a complete meal, you would be correct.
The bacon is first fried, then added to the dry ingredients. Here, with a healthy amount of crushed red peppers...
It's meaty and chewy, and could easily gentrify any plain old lunch into a eyebrow raising and sophisticated Brunch. I also made a half recipe, since after all, I for sure don't need the temptations of a 1 1/2 pound loaf of bacon bread siren calling me morning, noon and night.
A while back, Lo asked me if I ever would recommend Lahey's "bread in a pot" method using parchment to raise the dough in and I said not really. On the second olive bread that I made, some of the olives made their way to the outermost of the loaf and had direct contact with the cast iron pot for the duration of the cooking time. It wasn't terrible, either to the palate or to the dishwasher (a.k.a. Me...), but I thought burnt bacon may be a different story. So I decided to line my enamel colander with parchment, let the bacon bread dough rise in it, and then transfer the whole works to the pot to cook. No mess, much easier to transfer. So, Lo - I take it back. It works excellently, especially if you have need for less cleanup or are working with a sticky ingredient (or just lack confidence in the skill of handling a floppy-ish risen bread dough in close proximity to a blazing hot cast iron pot).
My bread was done before lunchtime, and I made another of my favorite recipes to enjoy it with, herby baked eggs. I made my Husband a grilled cheese, which I may have to do for myself tomorrow with some of the leftovers. A cashew pesto, provolone, tomato grilled cheese on bacon bread? I may finally have a submission for The Grilled Cheese Academy after all! You can be sure that I'll let you know how it turns out.
Meanwhile, I'm glad I opted to bake today, even in the extreme heat and humidity. We have air conditioning, but somehow a 475 degree oven manages to slice through it pretty well. The heat also wrecks havoc on my appetite: killing it off almost completely. But that is why I thank you, Jim Lahey, because there aren't many appetites that can't be piqued by the smell of bacon baking into bread. Just one more reason why he really is pure genius.