Sunday, 8 March 2009

New Post Rising: Joey's Meme

Well, time flies when your honey's home. (And you attract more flies with honey than vinegar, but that's neither here nor there.) While I've been neglecting this blog, LL Cool Joe not only invented his own meme, but tagged me, too.

From Joey's Pad:

1. You've got to post a link from the person who tagged you.
2. List 8 things that you know about on your chosen subject. You get to choose the subject.
3. You don't have to tag anyone but you can if you want. If you do, let them know on their blog that they've been tagged.
4. List the rules.

He adds: "So the idea is to write 8 things about a subject, eg. your job, marriage, sexuality, a hobby, diet, sport etc. that sheds light on the subject from your own personal perspective. So for example if you teach, you list some of the "inside" knowledge that you've gained, making your work more interesting or successful."

It took me a little while to think of what I might be able to write about here. I settled on writing about a hobby that I've neglected recently (much like the blog) but that I'd like to pick up again to some extent: making bread.

I took up breadmaking when I was in college. I read that John Lennon started baking bread in his post-Beatles life, and it sounded kind of cool and hip and non-stereotypically masculine to me. Then I read Salman Rushdie's "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" and one of the main characters, Ormus Kama, also bakes bread, heaps and heaps of fluffy white bread. Ormus is an insanely sexy rock star that I identified with strongly in the book. He's in love with Vina Apsara, a mysterious, strong-willed singer who is both his soul mate and yet ever elusive.

But enough about the book. The point is, I decided baking bread was an appealing hobby and I took it up. And here are eight things I know about it.

1. You don't need an exact recipe to make bread. In fact, it's almost impossible to write one. This is because flour is very affected by humidity, so the amount of liquid you need to flour varies a lot. Some people try to get around this by weighing ingredients, but to me, that misses the point. I love that you can take the basic ingredients and combine them in a million different ways until the dough looks and tastes right, and get a different but tasty result each time.

2. You can make bread with just flour, salt, water, and yeast. Well, technically, you could leave the salt out, but it wouldn't taste very good.

3. Yeast is a microorganism. People often say they're intimidated by baking with yeast. But, I like the analogy I found somewhere that yeast is easy if you remember to treat it like you should treat yourself. Keep it about body temperature. If you put too much fat in the bread, the yeast gets sluggish and slow, and it takes a longer time for the dough to rise. If you add too much sugar, the yeast gets hyper and eats and multiplies like crazy, but also tends to die off fast. It's better to give it a more balanced diet. The analogy ends though when you bake the bread and kill the yeast off.

4. Bread is done when you can knock on the bottom of the loaf and it sounds hollow.

5. It's hard to get homemade bread to taste like bakery Italian or French breads. At the bakery, they have special steam-injected ovens which help to get the crust that crunchy, shiny texture. There are a lot of home substitutions but I've never gotten one to work. After dumping ice water into a tempered glass casserole dish in the bottom of the hot oven, and having shards of glass spray everywhere, I decided that I could buy bakery bread at the bakery. Homemade bread has its own virtues and special taste.

6. You can freeze bread dough. But, the yeast dies off over time. So you should add extra yeast at the start.

7. My favorite bread cookbook is King Arthur Flour Company's baking cookbook. I learned a lot of what I know in that book. Plus the recipes are good and an excellent base for experimentation.

8. It's really, really cool to see the bread dough expand in size over time during the rising process. It goes fastest in a warm environment, like a sunny windowshelf or near the heater. On the other hand you can also slow it down, for instance making dough in the morning and sticking it to rise in the fridge all day.

I'm going to tag some folks now. Eight, I guess, one for each fact. But feel free to play along if it looks like fun.
MLC (pottery maybe? I'm so fascinated by your art.)
Saint Chick

This is a very old picture from my first foray into bread-making (and my first short hair cut, oddly enough).


B said...

Wow! Cute pic! I would love to send you my recipe for House Bread.

saintchick said...

omg you know I'm just a big ole meme whore.. I'll work on mine today :P

LL Cool Joe said...

Hey cool! Thanks for doing the meme Leo.

I had no idea you knew this much about making bread!

So what do you make of these bread making machines? We were given one for Christmas, erm last year and still haven't used it. :D

You cracked me up the way that you wanted to make sure that everyone realises that bread making is a masculine thing to do! Geez I do jigsaws. Do you know any cool Hip Hop guys that do jigsaws? I just can't see Ice Cube sitting at table doing a 500 piece jigsaw of the New York skyline. Can you? :D

Cool photo as well. You've got crap all over your denims. You need a nice apron mate. :D

Leo MacCool said...

B: thanks! I'd love your recipe... you can send it to butchgirlcat [at] if you have it handy.

SaintChick: can't wait.

LLCJ: To me, bread making is a hobby, and the machines take a lot of the fun out of it for me. I like getting my hands into it & experimenting. So I leave the machines strictly alone.

You have such a good handle on my greatest weaknesses. Yeah, I'm a slob with too much invested in my masculinity. ;)

saintchick said...

I'm done.. and good lord it took me foreva :s

MLC said...

All right - I'll do it. Can't today though but I will write about the art.

Got an AMAZING gift from the universe today...a sponsor!

Kyle said...

I know I'm way late on this, but as one Baking Butch to another, wanted to pass on a cookbook tip. I got into flatbread cooking a few years back, and though its been awhile, I've had fun exploring "Flatbreads & Flavors" by Jeffry Afford and Naomi Duguid. Not just recipes for flatbread, but a tour of world cultures via flatbread. Also includes recipes for tradional accompaniements, lots of photos and great stories from the authors' explorations.

ladybrettashley said...

i never did yet say how much this looks like a guy i was good friends with in college.

(p.s. i miss you here)