Friday, September 25, 2015

Bread Day

For more than a year, maybe two, I'd been baking bread following the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day formula. Then, several months ago, I started using King Arthur's sourdough starter and recipe. Folks around here at least say they like both. Although the house smells wonderful while either are baking, I thought the sour dough could use a little more flavor. This week I'm trying something different and, in my own way, am foolishly changing two variables at once. I didn't refrigerate the starter this week and, instead of five cups of all purpose flour, I'm trying four cups of all purpose and one of bread flour. I've already noticed that the dough seems smoother. I'm curious to see how the bread comes out. Baking provides a nice alternative to the more abstract effort of writing. I'm getting comfortable enough with the routine that it's time to experiment and see if I can learn anything from empirical experiments in addition to the book learning I started with.

Artisan bread and cloche  bread baker
Artisan bread and cloche bread baker
Photo by J. Harrington

loaves of sourdough bread
Photo by J. Harrington

During the Summer, I usually spend less time baking (the lack of 90 degree days this Summer created an exception). Now that Autumn has started and the weather will be cooling, it's time to ramp up the baking routine again. There's a recipe for roasted apple bread that I'm anxious to try next week when the temperatures drop back into a seasonable range. Although the wheat and mills are no longer strictly local, and heaven only knows where the energy for the oven actually comes from, the labor and love that go into my bread makes it a local food as far as I'm concerned. [UPDATE: I can attest that the dough, after proofing, is moister than straight all-purpose flour, as I learned when I shaped the two loaves.]

One of the other really nice parts of the change from Summer to Autumn is that, sometime in the past several weeks, the deer flies and most of the mosquitoes have disappeared. Whoever wrote about the challenge of noticing what isn't there was spot on. It took me longer than I'd like to admit before I noticed that dogs and I weren't being harassed during our walks. Fewer bugs, lower humidity and heat, fresh bread, Ah, Autumn!

Waifs and Strays

Arthur Rimbaud, 1854 - 1891

Black in the fog and in the snow,
Where the great air-hole windows glow,
With rounded rumps,

Upon their knees five urchins squat,
Looking down where the baker, hot,
The thick dough thumps.

They watch his white arm turn the bread,
Ere through an opening flaming red
The loaf he flings.

They hear the good bread baking, while
The chubby baker with a smile
An old tune sings.

Breathing the warmth into their soul,
They squat around the red air-hole,
As a breast warm.

And when, for feasters’ midnight bout,
The ready bread is taken out,
In a cake’s form;

And while beneath the blackened beams,
Sings every crust of golden gleams,
While the cricket brags,

The hole breathes warmth into the night,
And into them life and delight,
Under their rags,

And the urchins covered with hoar-frost,
On billows of enchantment tossed
Their little souls,

Glue to the grate their little rosy
Noses, singing through the cosy
Glowing holes,

But with low voices like a prayer,
Bending down to the light down there,
Where heaven gleams.

—So eager that they burst their breeches,
And in the winter wind that screeches
Their linen streams.

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