Monday, March 4, 2013

Bread in Every Meal.

You would think I'm not eating much, what with the infrequency of my writing life lately.  I can assure you that is not the case.  In fact, I've come to blissful (re)discovery that indeed almost every meal can be improved with bread.  Relatedly, I'm increasingly grateful that my old bread appetites are fully back and ever since that brief, pregnancy induced repulsion, I have renewed appreciation for the staff of life.

(Little Goat Bread's apple and pistachio loaf on the left, my Forkish-style sourdough on the right.)

It may have actually started a few weeks back when Deena and I were chatting online and she mentioned that her Basque country friends revere bread so much that they incorporate it into nearly every eating experience.  Intrigued, for days I imagined my stale bread crumbled into some strong coffee laced with milk as she described...  I didn't go so far (yet) as to actually drinking my bread, but increasingly I have been using every last crumb of my loaves.

Not that I ever wasted old bread.  I usually dried the last several slices and ground them up into breadcrumbs, which somehow always seem to come in handy.  But more recently, I make my eating schedule up around these gorgeous loaves that seem to have graced me with their abundant presence.  Like I am not any sort of real baker, like they arrive mysteriously overnight and fill my little kitchen with shear wealth of kitchen alchemy, they are too good to have come from my hands:  reminders that good bread is as much a product of the elements as intuitive know-how.

sourdoughs, cubed.

I'm also reminded of the electronic age in which I live.  I hate it.  But then, with so much food inspiration running into me on a daily basis, it's hard to deny myself the pleasures of the Internet.  This morning, Autumn Makes and Does posted about a Kale Panzanella she made, and just after clearing the breakfast dishes, I was toasting up the last of the old bread in really (really) good olive oil to start my lunch.  Cooking lunch for myself is such a pleasure, I need almost to be coaxed not to eat at home.  Of course, when lunchtime came around, I was more than pleased with my altered version of her recipe:  garlicky, massaged raw kale, tossed with those Outpost chile olives that I am obsessed with for years, a handful of raisins, more olive oil, lemon juice, and some of the chile olive brine for good measure.  It was so good, I'm looking forward to having the same thing for lunch tomorrow.

kale sourdough panzanella

Since I'm a pregnant lady, I added a poached egg and some avocado.  I need the protein, and I wanted to try out the Serious Eats method of egg poaching that David Leibovitz posted on Facebook last week...  I learned that the strainer method does make for a pretty perfect looking poached egg, but also that my superfresh farm eggs have virtually no runny white to fall through the strainer - so if I'm not too picky about the pursuit of perfection, I can skip that part.

kale sourdough panzanella
"Autumn" inspired lunch

As for the Ken Forkish bread that I am still thrilled with:  click on the photo below for my baker notes.  I love that this bread proofs entirely in the fridge with hardly a second thought from me.  I'm patiently rereading the formulas, and am convinced that I have to try some of his other loaves - if only this first one I tried wasn't already so perfect.  4 weeks in now, and I've yet to produce a faulty loaf.


So other inspirational lunches from breads lately?  A savory feta and spinach bread "pudding" that was based on Heidi Swanson's Food and Wine post.

savory bread pudding

A stellar homemade hummus (courtesy of Alton Brown) that employed effortlessly creamy garbanzos cooked in a slow cooker (with more of those Outpost chile olives).

"Forkish" tartine

There were probably more instances, definitely there were.  But saving you from a post of 30 photos taken on an iPhone and the manic ravings of a bread obsessed supergeek shows my genuine concern for keeping up my small readership.  Today anyway, I am the Queen of Restraint.

Perhaps I'll close with a thought from Ken Forkish (in his book, Flour Water Salt Yeast) that I can't seem to get out of my mind.  Giant loaves of bread were baked in Europe years ago because families didn't have access to home ovens.  The community oven was fired once or twice a week and bakers would bring their risen loaves to bake.  The bread had to last until the next time an oven was fired - rationed appropriately and the weekly meal planning surrounded it.  Of the 3-kilo (6+ pounds) loaves his bakery produces, he feels those giants taste best around the 3-day mark, having a sufficient time to age and accustom to their environment.

He also goes on to say that his patrons don't eat that much bread, so they need to sell those monster breads in half or quarter loaves.  How sad, I've been thinking for the past week, that we have become so afraid of the carbohydrate (even though properly prepared sourdough breads pose none of the threats of common supermarket loaves, "wholegrain" or not) that this old-country tradition of bread with every meal is all but erased from our collective knowledge.

My bread isn't 6 pounds, but it is around 2 pounds, and I can get by baking just one a week being creative to use every morsel of it to the best of my ability.  This translates to strings of beautiful lunches, sometimes baking day breakfasts of week old French toast which we devour with true appreciation.  Never yet have I had a loaf of my bread mold.  This is the stuff that sustains, the realness of life and the centerpiece of my kitchen.  This is the staff that I can make into every meal.


  1. Gorgeous loaves! And I agree - every meal is better with bread! :)

  2. I wish I were holding that fork, poised in that oozy yolk! This all looks downright divine. We're celebrating egg recipes in this month's Shine Supper Club, and I hope you'll join us. This would a really great contribution.

  3. That loaf of bread is a work of art! So beautiful. I can't wait to read more about it. The panzanella looks and sounds delicious, and that shot of the poached egg- just exquisite. I'm eager to learn how to poach a good egg - thanks for the link. Hope you're doing great!

  4. Your bread looks amazing! Love the hole structure. I've been working out of Ken's book too, and have gotten some great bread, but doesn't look as nice as yours. My wife and I are moving to Milwaukee soon and opening a pizzeria. We got to your blog via Deena Precept. How is your 100% lifestyle working with the 80% starter?

    1. Deena mentioned you guys to me, and I'll confess - I've actually been dreaming of baking some bread in your pizza oven-to-be! I devoured your online pizza truck menu, and can't wait to see what happens here in the Midwest. Do you make your doughs with starter on a production scale? I'd be completely excited to see how you do things when you get that far! As for the 80% starter: I feel like I'm on a learning curve again. I'm not so mathematically minded and really struggle figuring out the numbers on things. I'm sticking to Forkish's feeding ratio blindly for now - and keeping two starters. It's just a bit extra cozy on my countertop...

  5. Overnight poolish w/ commercial yeast...thats why I like to play w/ wild yeast on the weekend. As we are looking for properties in milwaukee, was wondering if you have a favorite [food] neighborhood...or part of town you could envision a artisan pizza place in the new haven/new York variety 18 in. pies?

    1. Would you mind emailing me? - my address is in the about me at the top :)

  6. Yum! I am so happy you enjoyed the panzanella. The pregnant lady version sounds great! :)


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