When I was a kid, my mom made bread. There were years when she only made it once in a while and years when she made it every week. Her baking rhythm was inversely proportional to the sophistication of our surroundings. There was a solid year or two when we lived on a 16-acre farm in rural New Hampshire. During that time, we ate home-churned butter on home-baked bread and washed it down with whole, unpasteurized, unhomogenized milk (from whence came the cream that spawned the butter).
Mom’s bread was rustic, and not in any big-bubbled, artisanal, sourdough fashionista sort of way. She used whole grains and honey and god knows what else, and one slice would see you clear through marching up the hill and back down again, especially if that slice was carrying a load of cheddar cheese and had just spent some quality time in the toaster oven. Serious stuff, my friends.
Serious, and for a young lad exposed to all the temptations of a modern industrialized society, all too easy to take for granted. You have no idea how I longed for white bread in those days. I dreamed of Wonder bread, layered with Oscar Meyer bologna and processed American cheese, dressed with Heinz ketchup and yellow mustard.
I never really had a chance at being a baker. One summer, while working at a bistro in Portsmouth, NH, one of the part-owners began to teach me how to make croissants. I stuck with him for a while, but I was soon distracted by being a teenage boy in a seasonal vacation town. Hell, Guns ‘n’ Roses Appetite for Destruction went huge that year, and I could never square getting up at oh-dark-thirty to fold dough with late-night dart games fueled by weed and beer.
These days, we buy our bread. The closest thing that we have to a house loaf is the pain de mie that Acme Bread sells at the Ferry Plaza farmers’ market in SF. Despite the pretentious surroundings and occasional bursts of hipper-than-thou attitude from the purveyors, it’s damn good bread. It’s the sort of white bread that I’d imagine my mom would have made if she’d put her mind to it: a tight, even crumb balanced by a crust that’s chewy without being overbearing.
Note: This post is in honor of World Bread Day 2006