Tempted to Try
It has been said that man cannot live by bread alone, which is to say that the things we have in this world cannot truly satisfy our deepest longings. I think that probably most of you would agree with this. There are things that the human soul needs that cannot be bought or made: love, forgiveness, acceptance, etc. I know this to be true in my heart and in m mind. However, this week, I was sore tempted to try to live by bread alone, literally.
Every week when it comes time to feed my monsters, I consider what to make or not. You see, when you feed a sourdough starter, you only feed half of it. The other half you either have to use, give away, or throw away. It really pains me to throw it away, but I do do it about once a month.
This week, I guess I was feeling a little ambitious. I had a little extra time on Tuesday (feeding day) and so I got out my sourdough books and chose some recipes. I knew I couldn’t do it all in one day, so I chose recipes that could be spaced apart. Here is what I came up with.
Tuesday: Bacon Levain
We had some leftover bacon from our Sunday brunch and the husband requested some bacon bread. Usually when I make bacon bread, I use a recipe from The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Berenbaum. It is really delicious and pretty quick to make. This time, however, I found a recipe in Local Breads by Daniel Leader. It was a one day bread, meaning I could bake it the same day I made the dough and would be perfect for using up my stiff starter.
You know a bread is going to be good when you can see bacon fat glistening off of it when you remove it from the oven. This bread is amazing. The smoky flavor of the bacon permeates the bread and the crust is thin and crispy. It’s also got a great hearty texture from the whole wheat and rye flours in the dough. Yum!
Wednesday: Country Sourdough
This is the basic “learning to bake sourdough” recipe in the La Brea Bakery book. I had been wanting to make a basic sourdough for awhile. The last batch I made was so tasty that I wanted some more and of course, I had to try a different recipe. The dough was really beautiful–it had a great creamy color and a soft stretchy texture. I was a little worried about this one because it was really slow to rise. I’m not even sure it actually doubled during the first rise like it was supposed to. However, It baked up beautifully.
You know, the husband and I lived in the San Francisco area for a year and I don’t think I ever saw a bread that looked like this. We probably weren’t looking in the right places. And the texture! Oh My! I have never made a sourdough with such an airy texture before. The crust was shatteringly crispy and it had a great wheaty flavor. We used it to make some grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner and they were scrumptious.
Sourdough is amazing. With commercial yeast, it feels like you are adding an ingredient, much like baking powder or soda. After all, you measure it by the teaspoon, just like other leavening agents. But with sourdough, it’s a living, breathing thing living in your fridge and if you are really nice and feed it regularly, it just gets better and better. These breads are definitely better than the ones I was baking last month.
Thursday: Raisin Brioche
Now, this bread is a three day bread. I started this way back on Tuesday, but didn’t get to bake it until yesterday. This bread is also from the La Brea book and is a hybrid recipe, meaning that it has sourdough starter and commercial yeast in it. This is often the case with egg and butter enriched sourdoughs. This too was a beautiful dough to work with. This dough almost got made into hamburger rolls, but at the last minute I decided that I had enough sandwich-type breads in the house. So, I added the pound of raisins that the recipe called for.
I am not sorry I added the raisins. Like a lot of brioche-type doughs, it took a long time for the dough to develop in the mixer. I think it was mixing for something like 20 minutes. On high. The mixer was so loud that I thought I might need to get some earplugs. But, all that work is worth it to get that soft, stretchy texture.
These loaves came out a little darker because of the higher sugar content in the dough and the egg wash on top. I would probably bake them at a lower temperature next time. And what does it taste like? Ummm…that’s a good question. Seriously, I am at a loss to describe the flavor of this bread. The husband says it is sublime. The boys both say it tastes great. It is soft, like a brioche, but moister. The buttery and egg-y flavors do not stand out as much in this bread next to the tangy flavor of the sourdough, but it all works together to produce the most complex tasting brioche bread I have ever had. There is butter, egg, sweetness from the raisins and tangyness in every bite. I think it would taste really good made into french toast, but I’m not sure there will be any left to do that with.
I cannot fit any more loaves of bread into my freezer and the husband thinks I need to take a break with the bread, but I don’t know if I can. Seriously, with all these gorgeous and sublimely delicious loaves of bread surrounding me, is it any wonder that I was tempted to try to live on bread alone?