Susie’s Breads

People have strong feelings about that ancient skill, the baking of bread. There are those who avoid it like the plague because yeast is smelly and inscrutable, kneading is messy, and who has time to wait for a 3-hour rise? Then there are those who embrace bread with such fervor that they dedicate a whole fridge to their pet sourdough projects and spend their weekends researching wild fermentation. And then there’s everyone in between.

Since I am just about equally divided between being a lazy slob and a Type A obsessive, I’ve spent time at both ends of the bread gamut. These days I’ve settled somewhere in the middle. I make bread every week, but I almost always use the same recipe –the 100% Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf from Artisan Breads Every Day. I use a mixer for most of the kneading. The whole thing costs me maybe $1.50 in ingredients and 15 minutes of active time, and the kids get fresh bread for their sandwiches.

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These days, there are cookbooks for every degree of panophilia. There’s Jim Lahey‘s famous My Bread–the ridiculously easy, no-knead bread that took the food world by storm a couple years ago. It’s such good bread that nobody seems to resent his inflating one recipe into a whole book. For those ready to enter into the mysteries of slow fermentation there’s the classic Bread Alone by Daniel Leader and Judith Blahnik. And then there’s, well, everything by Peter Reinhart, the great mad monk of bread, whose books somehow become both more brilliant and more accessible with every year.

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It would be misleading to suggest that bread books are the only way to go, though. There are lots of great bread recipes in non-bread books, too. Here’s a few of my favorites from over the years : the sunny, yellow Golden Semolina Bread from Nancy Harmon JenkinsCucina del Sole. The crusty, pillowy Pao Caseiro (Homestyle Bread) from Ana Patuleia Ortins’ Portuguese Homestyle Cooking. –And the golden-brown, buttery challah from the dear old Silver Palate Cookbook.

If you’re already a bread nut, you’ll know just what I’m talking about. But if you’ve always been intimidated by bread, don’t be. Give it a try once–you might just find, as the ripening dough swells, that your spirit lifts and rises too.


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