Monday, September 7, 2009

It Doesn't Take Much...

It doesn't take much.
I wrote those words after Nik ate a coupla pieces of this bread and repeatedly exclaimed that this was "maybe the best bread I have ever made", he "loved this bread! it was so good! so good! you have to make this again!" get the idea. (Nik rarely implies the use of exclamation points, but when eating this bread...he did.)

This bread, from Carol Field's classic The Italian Baker, certainly is tasty. And it's as satisfying to make as it is to eat. Watching it mix, you can almost see the gluten gradually develop, creating a whirling amorphous soft elastic cohesive glob in the mixer bowl that YOU JUST KNOW is going to bake up splendidly and be really really good to eat. Moist bread with big holes in it, great flavor, chewy blistered crust...I'm in heaven.

This bread also is quite simple. I quote my FCI bread instructor Chef Amy Quazza..."Bread is nothing more than flour, water, yeast, and salt." It's what is done with those four ingredients that makes the difference. In this case, just a little time, a little patience, a soft touch, and a hot oven. But really, to go from flour to doesn't take much.

I was going to say that all good things should be so simple. But then I got to thinking about that idea, many good things are that simple.

It doesn't take much to make our dogs happy...a belly rub, a treat, snuggle time.
It doesn't take much to make me take a deep rejuvinating breath...a gentle breeze early in the morning, a hint of autumn in the air, the desert after a rain.
It doesn't take much to stop and listen.
It doesn't take much to say hello.
It doesn't take much to ask rather than tell.
It doesn't take much to say thank you.
It doesn't take much to take a moment.
It doesn't take much to think.
It doesn't take much to think twice.

Now don't think me a gushy touchy-feely namby-pamby wuss...though sometimes I am a bit of a gushy namby-pamby wuss, because sometimes (though less and less frequently, I am happy to report) the flipside also can happen...

A jerk tailgating me at 55 mph...
Ignorance as the basis of an argument...
A smoker throwing a cigarette butt on the ground...
Egocentrism, without a neurological reason...
No big picture...

See, sometimes, it doesn't take much. In either direction. Which I think is both ridiculous and okay. I'm just glad that a loaf of bread can make Nik happy. I think I'll make another batch tomorrow.

Crocodile Bread
Makes 2 loaves
(I made this bread wrong, which is to say that I made it right. I was confused by the two starter thing, which after i did it wrong I figured out, but seeing as how the wrong way came out so good, I think that it's really a new right I won't even include the original right way. Also - Please Note: I omitted 1 1/4 cup of water from Starter B in the orginal posting. It has been corrected, thanks to JOsh.)
Starter A
Water...................1 cup
Durum Flour............1/4 cup
AP Flour.................3/4 cup
Yeast....................1/2 tsp

Start B
Water...................1 1/2 cup
Durum Flour............1/2 cup
AP Flour................1 1/2 cups
Yeast....................1 tsp

1. Mix the ingredients for the two starters, in two separate bowls, until they are smooth. Cover with plastic and let rise for 12 - 24 hours.

Final Dough above
Durum Flour..............1/4 cup
AP Flour...................1 cup (plus an additional 1/4 cup, if necessary)
Salt........................1 1/2 Tblsp
1. Combine the starters and the flours in mixing bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on the lowest speed for 17 minutes.
2. Add the salt and mix 3 additional minutes (add the additional 1/4 cup flour if the dough has not come together).
3. Place the dough in a wide bowl, cover with plastic and let rise for 4-5 hours, folding every hour.
4. Turn dough out onto a well-flour board, preshape roughly into a round. Place on a well floured piece of parchment, cover with a damp towel and let rise for 45 minutes, until risen and bubbly.
5. Heat oven to 475.
6. Cut the dough in half lengthwise with a dough scraper and gently separate the halves, turning the cut side up in the process.
7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, placing the parchment directly on the baking stone.

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