Wednesday, February 11, 2009

The Staff of Life

Bread of some description has been eaten by almost every culture everywhere since the dawn of time. Your grandmother almost certainly baked bread, and her grandmother, and hers before her, and on and on. So why don't we?

I think a lot of people are under the impression that making bread is difficult, that it requires expensive equipment, that it's messy and tedious, that it takes hours of work, and that it's just not worth all that time and effort. All those things couldn't be further from the truth.

The reality is that baking bread does take a bit of practice, yes, but the learning curve is short and even "failures" are cheap and never catastrophic (as opposed to experimenting with, say, pastry or a crown roast or deep-frying). And the end result is bread that's better than any you could buy, for a small fraction of the cost.

Let me give you a couple of examples. My cocodrillo bread recipe makes two enormous, craggy loaves that could be sold next to the $6 artisanal rosemary sourdough boules in any swanky bakery in America. It's beautiful, complex, and delicious. It requires just minutes of hands-on time and costs well under a dollar per loaf to make. Or, even simpler, the honey-whole-wheat bread I made last weekend, which runs in the 40-50 cents per loaf range and makes for a great everyday bread.

Both recipes will soon be available at MET, but in the meantime, why not set yourself a bread goal? Even if you don't swear off buying bread altogether like I have, you could start out baking every other weekend and see how you like it. Or you could make all your sandwich bread at home. Or make it your goal to master one kind of bread per month -- whole wheat this month, oatmeal bread next month, pumpernickel the month after that, and so on.

Give it a try!

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