Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday, 10 August 2008 - Bread

Dear God:

Today, I am thankful for bread.

Stale bread is not hard; what is hard is to live without bread.
~Paul Claudel, French poet (1868-1955)

Bread, in Egyptian Arabic, is called aish, which literally means life, rather than khobz, the word that other Arab-speakers use. The word reflects the centrality of bread here. This is a culture of bread, not rice, not meat and potatoes, not humus.
~International Herald Tribune, 1.16.08

There are days when I'm sure that I could survive on a diet of bread and water. Of course, the bread must be my own, the water, purified.

I've been making bread for over two years, ever since the local bakery again raised the price on its baguettes. I bought a secondhand breadmaking machine on eBay for around $25.00 and quickly recouped the cost. Fortunately, organic flour, salt, sugar and yeast remain affordable.

Our enduring favorites are Italian focaccio and classic French bread. The focaccio was an instant success. The French bread, however, was not as easy to master especially at high altitude. No matter how I altered the basic recipe, I could not duplicate the crusty baguettes that we love.

About a week ago, I finally discovered the "secret" to making perfect French bread at altitude - bread flour. Now my French bread recipe - tweaked and tested - is my new masterpiece. It consistently produces loaves that are crusty on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside. Each bite reveals just a hint of salt. Perfect!

For this blessing, I am grateful.


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