Monday, June 16, 2014

Gluten in the Blood

I love bread.  I always have.  Growing up in Philadelphia, there were always good delicatessens around that served not only delicious cold cuts, but rye bread: the kind with the really soft inside and chewy crust. You can keep the caraway seeds.   Tastykakes (a Pennsylvania-based company that makes Hostess-style cakes) were good, cheesesteaks an occasional welcome indulgence (I always preferred a pizza steak to a cheesesteak because processed yellow cheese food is disgusting), but a slice of rye bread, plain, was a real treat.  No butter, because why ruin a perfectly good piece of bread?

Bread is magic.  To paraphrase Peter Reinhart, a master baker, it's the story of life and death and resurrection.  The live wheat is killed in harvest, and then it lives again with the use of yeast in dough, and then it's killed once more in the oven.  It's a symbol of civilization.

So, over the course of decades, I made my own breads, with varying degrees of success.  I went through bread machines and recipes, trying to achieve artisan-style bread: the kind with the large, irregular holes.  It was a hobby that I'd picked up and dropped in cycles until late 2010, when my wife bought me a copy of Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day.

It was a truly transformative book, and not only taught me how to make that elusive bread with the big holes, but also spurred me on to learn more about bread baking in general.  It also encouraged me to start a blog called Adventures in Leavening.  It documented my early successes and techniques.  I still refer to it from time to time, but I haven't updated it in years.

I have a toddler son, so I can no longer pursue hobbies the way I once did.  When he's a little older, he and I will go into the kitchen and make things like yeast doughnuts and breads and such.  We'll see if he catches the bread spark, so to speak.  It's likely he will: when I can, I make us ciabatta bread as a treat, and pizza on the weekends.  But for now, my time is not all my own.  My little boy is only going to be this young once, and he's a great guy to hang out with.

But I will get back to more baking some day.  I've got gluten in my blood.

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