You-Can-Do-It Bread!

My parents, who were born and raised on the westside of Los Angeles, moved to Santa Barbara a year and a half ago. They purchased a home near us where they knew they could have a lovely garden, and chickens, far from the craziness of westside traffic, where driving has become a sport for some, and almost war-like for others.

But in order to have the garden and those chickens, they had to make their home live-able. With no bedrooms on the ground floor, they embarked on a remodeling adventure that still isn’t over!

So close, though.

For all of this time they’ve lived virtually out of a suitcase, but just last week the final round of their things from storage arrived. What a big task, to sort and question, and figure out how to make this new home theirs, and what to do with all the Stuff!

To encourage them, we’ve been having them to our home for meals for these 18 months–not every night, but often. And though their home isn’t quite finished, we decided to barbecue at their place to mark the progress of it being Almost Done! My dad is a breadmonger, being a baker and all, and he really doesn’t eat a meal without a piece of bread near his plate. So I mixed up a batch of country French–a blend of white flour, freshly ground kamut, and rye, with some sourdough starter thrown in for flavor. We toted it over to their place, then I took the loaf for a quick tour of their new home. The real housewarming will come when the landscaping is done and all the furniture is placed, but here’s a glimpse into their current world–mess and stuff and all. (Made complete by the visiting neighbor dog, Puppy, who literally roams where she likes and spends at least half her day inspecting the workers and their work…)

IMG_4588 IMG_4589 IMG_4591 IMG_4592 IMG_4593 IMG_4599Cheers, friends!

 

Flab.ber.gas.ted

— flab·ber·gas-ted

affected with sudden and great wonder or surprise; adj.

I just love that word, flabbergasted. The person who made up that word must have been such a character! Just bump it around in your mouth… flabbergasted!

Anywho. I baked up some delicious whole grain sourdough rye last week… during a long business call. The oven would ding, and I’d make sure the callers didn’t need my input. I’d RACE, high speed into the kitchen, twenty miles an hour at least, and tug open that oven door and do what was needed. IN goes the bread, OFF come the pot lids, OUT comes the bread. That phone call just kept going on and on, and I’d say I was productive both on and off the phone!

hee hee

The bread done, and chores needing tending to, I spied my husband out front and brought him that extra loaf of gorgeous bread. Give it away, will you?  He was watering the kale and the favas. I put the bread in a red paper gift bag on the front porch. We just missed the old man with the chihuahua, he relayed back. I shrugged. My husband was a doer and he’d find a good home for that loaf of rye.

From the new bunnies (gotta show you some pictures but my poor —lousy— I’m-calling-it-names-camera is ailing), to the bills, to the dishes, to the Christmas cards (which I just started writing!), I forgot all about the bread giving. But later in the evening I got the story.

Tom, one of our favorite neighbors that we only see now and again, came a walkin’ by, and my husband asked him if he ate bread. (That seems to be my new first question, since so many in our parts are trying to do without wheat.) Tom said yes, and so the bread was snagged from the porch, presented to Tom, and that’s when the word flabbergasted seems to have been uttered. Flabbergasted. Tom was flabbergasted that we would give him a loaf of beautiful bread.

And I’m flabbergasted that we don’t give beautiful bread to one another more often! We should. Why not share in these small ways, with one another, with the folks we know just a little, but could know a little bit more.

Because without today’s giving, the word flabbergasted never would have been uttered. And that would be a shame, I believe.

Cheers to you all!

Pain de Campagne

Ever been to France?

Pain de campagne is a staple bread that you will find in all boulangeries around the country. It translates as “country bread” and is typically made with a levain or sourdough starter and both wheat and rye flours. In order to get a nice light, but chewy texture this bread takes a bit of time to complete. I will tackle this sort of recipe on a day when I know I have chores at home and will be present for the various steps along the way.

When I moved to France as a young woman to study languages I came to love this hearty loaf of bread; it wasn’t one that was made in any large quantity in my family’s bakery here in California. Along with the baguette, I remember it being on the table of many homes in which I lived and visited, and I have hoped to duplicate it in my kitchen. It’s like a hearty dose of the good earth, and so good as sandwich bread, in the morning with eggs, or alongside a hearty vegetable soup. Yum!

I have tried a variety of recipes and finally found one that worked for me. Rejoice with me!!! That’s about ten years of trying! If you like to bake, and don’t have this bread book, titled Dough, by Richard Bertinet–then onto the Christmas list it should go. That’s where the recipe is found…

As an aside, this is a horrible representation of pain de campagne. I’m sharing this link because it’s the very first in line when you search for it on google. Good grief. Don’t follow that recipe.

As for the giving! I’ve made three batches now of pain de campagne in the last month and have given three of the six loaves away. One was eaten by a glowing pregnant mama, another went to my son’s first grade teacher, Miss Conway :), and the last ended up in the hands of my parents, who are currently in a long phase of house reconstruction…

Hope you get to France one day to try one of their many amazing breads–but if not, have fun giving this recipe a try. Or come knock on my door and I’ll make you a loaf!

Really, I would love to 🙂

Bleh (Rye) Bread

You know. Sometimes a new fiddling just doesn’t finish well (or even middle well). Ever since the marbled rye in South Dakota I’ve been dreaming of making a wonderful rye bread of my own. I’m not sure why I haven’t dared an actual marbled rye recipe yet. I’m not sure why I keep trying recipes that take days of starter-making and a hyper watchful eye.

So far I’ve tried a sourdough rye of my own invention. Bleh. (My daughter gave one of the loaves away to a neighbor that we don’t know well. Thankfully, it was pretty to look at, and she mentioned in the giving that it was experimental bread. Humbled, though. I wouldn’t want to eat that loaf again.)

I also tried to make a sourdough rye out of The Village Baker. I love this bread book, but it took about two weeks for me to actually get all the steps right. The bread was ugly, and I refused to give one away.

There’s that pride of mine! Refusing to give because of appearances!

And yet, when we cut into one of the loaves the next day, it was actually quite good. We all ate sandwiches using it, but the kids aren’t begging me to try again.

Still in a rye mood, I finally mixed up a batch of rye crackers! Ahhhhhh. So very tasty. My youngest helped, and was excited to use his steam roller (rolling pin) and we cut the dough into hearts, teddy bears, angels, and butterflies. These crackers are amazing. My son actually called me a genius for this baking effort. That’s a five-year-old for you. Tasty rye crackers=genius!

For now I’m done with both bleh bread and rye bread. I need to gain a little steam before more experiments…

(But just in case, if you happen to have any rye advice or favorite recipes, send them along. You never know when a new mood might strike!)

Last news. More Simple Gifts on the way. The next post will be all about Anna Larsen. Can’t wait to share!

Bread on the Road

Before I bring you all back into my kitchen, and we return to the baking that helps keep me giving, and sane, I just wanted to leave you with one last road trip post.

About bread!

Yum… Having been born a baker’s daughter, I’d say that I’ve always had a high awareness for the quality, look, smell, cost, labor of, ingredients in, and especially the taste of bread. So, when I lived in France, I was in heaven. I bought baguettes on occasion, and boules, and country loaves… I could tell the bakeries apart–and learned to turn my nose up at those that flash froze their products and baked them off later… I learned to love (and eat daily) chaussons aux pommes (pastry filled with cooked apples or applesauce).

When in Italy I shunned most of the breads and learned to make homemade pasta.

When in Colorado I was dismayed by the many soft, enriched, nutrient-boosted white breads with super long shelf lives, and finally decided to try to bake for myself.

This short story is getting long!

Anyway, even though our 5,244 mile road trip was a whirlwind, we did have to eat. And along the way we stumbled on a few very bread-worthy moments. Here they are:

I asked the server at Teddy’s Deli in Keystone, South Dakota about this bread after the first bite. “Where’s it from?” I mumbled and chewed and exclaimed, pointing to the swirled rye bread on my sandwich. “Montana,” he said. “All the good bread comes from Montana,” he added. Who knew?! And even before eating this sandwich I’ve been dreaming of making a really fabulous rye at home. We love our rye crackers, but I have yet to bake a fabulous sourdough rye, or pumpernickel, or really any sort of rye that I’d want to repeat regularly. After this sandwich, I’m on a quest!

We looked ALL over Keystone, South Dakota for a place to eat breakfast. We wanted eggs, and something other than donuts… And finally we ended up at Peggy’s Place, which my sister-in-law charmingly called “Cathy’s” because she just does that sort of thing. After seeing these massive cinnamon rolls, then tasting them, we came back two days in a row. Who wouldn’t?  

Moving on to Montana, but still stuck in rye mode, I purchased this small loaf of dark rye at On the Rise in Bozeman. Yum.

Here’s the storefront, and below is a rack of hearth bread with the listed prices. Montana is a big grower of winter wheat, and I’m tempted to purchase some wheat directly from this company, a Montana family of farmers who seem to love their trade. But look at those prices?! Makes you want to bake your own hearth bread, doesn’t it?

In Washington we mostly ate at home (at Harvey and Linda’s, I mean!), and there I baked up a fresh batch of buttermilk biscuits right off a recipe card that looked to be about 40 years old. Honored.

And in Oregon, I thought about pulling out my starter, which I’d kept secreted away for the whole trip, but didn’t. We were sidelined by snow and other things and before you knew it, we were home!

Now it’s your turn. All you beautiful people come from hither and yon. I’d love for you to post your favorite bakeries or breads that you find in your part of the world. It’d be fun to compile a list of faves for that next time–that next road trip, that either you–or I–take.

How ’bout it?