News happens faster than I can blog anymore. I gave up years ago in real life, but I do think about it. Can I take apart news stories and put them back together with bloggy masking tape and spit? Yeah, but I’d rather have my hands in bread dough and not have a nervous breakdown. So here we are.
Years ago, Dad died and left me homework: learn how to bake decent bread. I’ve been working my way through Dad’s cookbooks, but none has been as interesting as the late Carol Field’s The Italian Baker. Many recipes begin with a starter called a biga. If you want to bake bread tomorrow or in a few days, you gather yeast, flour, water in the right proportions, mix them and leave them on the counter overnight. The next day, if you’re not baking, you refrigerate the biga. You can freeze it if your dance card fills up and you just can’t watusi toward your loaf pans. Anyhoo, making a biga is effortless.
My daughter Miss Sasha asked me a few days ago what made a good cookbook. I said there were certain principles involved in baking and if a recipe writer asks me to depart from them, I’m immediately suspicious. Most cakes and cookies work this way: cream together butter/oil + sugar; add eggs one at a time; add flavorings; add some flour + some liquid, flour + liquid; add chunky stuff. If a recipe starts with flour in my mixing bowl, our relationship is off to a rocky start and our product will be inedible. A baker must trust a recipe writer. A recipe writer must offer directions for basic, medium and more complex recipes, let the baker work her way up and develop confidence.
Field does this. I can’t follow a recipe to save my life, but every one I study lets me produce decent loaves of bread. We eat them at home! I take them to work and foist them on my unsuspecting co-workers! When they dry out, I feed them to the chickens! I buy flour by the bale at Costco, but it’s all good. I’m not just baking bread, I’m stimulating the economy. Thank me!
And speaking of me, my daughter – again: Miss Sasha – wrote a book, which you can buy on Amazon. It’s called This Doesn’t Make Me An Expert, it is very interesting and full of surprises. Once chapter in particular blew me away, but they’re all good and I learned a lot reading it. You can buy it in print or in electronic form, and you should because reading is fundamental and you can’t spell fundamental without fun and mental.