A few of the two dozen or so loaves from Saturday.
Saturday was a bread day, so while I headed to the garden in the morning, my husband began making up the dough and getting the fire lit in the oven. As I worked, the familiar scent of wood smoke wafted across the yard. The bread oven smell is different from the smell of the wood burner or a brush fire—from the first wisp of smoke, it declares itself a cooking fire. The smell always gives me a sense of well-being. It tells me that soon there will be a bounty of baked goods, and we will eat well for days on the delicious things we’ll bake.
Bread days are always busy—baking is done on top of the gardening, mowing, and cleaning on the weekend’s to-do list. By mid-day Saturday, I had planted out my peas and hauled a dozen loads of compost to the garden, and the kitchen was full of rising loaves in a variety of shapes and sizes. It was time for me to join the baking. While my husband managed the bread, I chopped vegetables for what would become dinner.
It was an especially hot oven Saturday. Pitas baked in seconds, kaiser rolls in a handful of minutes, the vegetables came out beautifully caramelised in no time, and focaccia bubbled up quickly and came out sizzling. While the larger loaves baked, I mixed up pound cake and hazelnut biscotti to slip into the oven after the bread was through.
Dinner was a feast of roast vegetables and salad greens stuffed into fresh pita breads followed by pound cake and biscotti—a celebration of good food after a day of intense work. The only problem with it was there was no one besides us to share it with.
(For those of you who missed it a few years ago, you can check out our kitchen during a bread day in this time lapse video.)
I ran across this photo today–one I took several years ago–and thought it was worth sharing.
Most of the bread my husband bakes is utilitarian. It’s beautiful but, since he bakes two dozen loaves at a time, he necessarily can’t take a lot of time on each loaf. So he sticks with the tried-and-true bread shapes that are quick to form, and take advantage of the different stages of heat in our wood-fired bread oven.
But now and again, he makes different shapes. This one is simple and clever to form. The dough is rolled out into a long, flat shape, then slashed through at regular intervals down one side, leaving just a small edge uncut on the opposite side. Flip every other ‘flap’ created by the slashes to the opposite side, and when the bread is baked, the loaf resembles a stalk of wheat.
Simple and beautiful. The bread is perfect for parties, because it’s easy to tear off individual ‘grains’ from the stalk–it’s practically pre-sliced.
I’ve been threatening to make brioche for some time. Last time I made it was about seventeen years ago.
Not that I don’t like brioche–I love it–but I reckon that’s about how frequently one should eat it if one wants to live to a ripe old age. Three eggs provide most of the liquid, and 175 grams of butter give it that unbelievable silky texture. The butter and egg also make the dough incredibly sticky and difficult to work with, so it’s not something to make every weekend.
A cool, drizzly evening and the promise of a rainy day today made Sunday morning decadence sound like a good idea. I made up the dough after dinner Saturday and left it in the fridge overnight. This morning, it was a simple thing to roll balls of dough around chunks of intense dark chocolate and spoonfuls of sparkling red currant jam and pop them into little tart tins.
Half an hour later, these gorgeous little buns emerged from the oven. They were every bit as good as I remember them being seventeen years ago.
It may be another decade or two before I make brioche again, but something that decadent doesn’t need to come around too often. The memory is just as tasty as the real thing.