Friday, March 4, 2011

bread every day

During my twenties I was a tree planter and later, a tree planting camp cook.  To be clear, I mean all of my twenties (age 19 to 30).  It was much more than a summer job, it made me who I am (example: I met my husband tree planting).  In tree planting camps I learned many important things: don't be late for dinner, bears like toothpaste, toilet paper and duct tape are indispensable,  and I learned bread.  First, I learned to eat it, warm and slathered with butter, held in filthy hands, waiting in line for a shower after a day of work.  Then I learned to make it, that beautiful mound of dough expanding on the counter of the hot, cramped, camp kitchen.

I grew up with homemade bread.  Both of my grandmothers knew, and my mother knows, their way around a bread pan (my mom is famous for her buns).  A huge pan of bread dough rising was a familiar sight in my childhood.  Funny thing, I never learned how to make bread from my mom (I did make an experimental documentary about it once though).  I learned how to make bread on my own, in a camp kitchen.

I started out with  Edward Espe Brown's  Tassajara Bread Book and it served me well.  The basic recipe in that book is perfect for quadrupling, and I used to make six or eight big loaves every day.  Following Brown's instructions, I never had a bad batch of bread.  I put that bread out hot, with  a big pot of soup, at the first sound of hungry planters bursting out of the trucks (My anxiety dreams to this day, start with the sound of truck doors opening---oh my god I haven't even started dinner!  Why don't I have any pants on?).   Bread was my signature as a camp cook.

I still make bread often.  I don't use the Tassajara recipe anymore.  I use Mark Bittman's food processor technique (not the no-knead NY Times one--which I haven't had luck with to date).  It is ridiculously easy and more or less 'no-knead.'  I usually set it up some time in the morning; my hot humid kitchen is the perfect environment for bread rising.

Campesino Bread (they call the baguettes made with a whole wheat-rye mix 'campesino' at the supermarket here)
1 cup rye flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon yeast
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 1/2 cups water

Put the flour, salt and yeast into the bowl of the food processor and pulse to mix.

With the food processor on, add the water.  The dough should come together into a sticky ball.  Process for 30 seconds.

Put the dough into a bowl and cover with a plastic bag; leave it to rise for at least two hours.

On a floured surface, shape the dough into a boule.
it should have a smooth tight surface
Put the boule onto a pan lined with parchment, cover it and let it rise another hour.  Half way through the rise preheat the oven to 450°

Bake for 30-35 minutes.  It will be beautiful!

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