Panem et Circenses

Panem et Circenses

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Peasant Bread

I am currently watching the movie “Julie & Julia” which tells the fabulous true stories of Julie Powell and Julia Childs.  I remember seeing this movie years ago and immediately wanting to go into the kitchen to make wonderful food with my own ingredients and supplies. Here I am a few years later finally beginning to pass something that resembles that original yearning. This movie has served as part of the inspiration for my desire to try something completely new and to write about it. So Julie Powell, wherever you are, thanks for being an inspiration to us, not only to make wonderful food, but to write about life as well.  I admit that although my challenge of baking my way through a few hundred loaves of bread is not quite as daunting as baking my way through the entire Julia Childs cookbook, I have decided that for a single guy still in college this will have to serve as my entrance into the cooking world.  You have to start somewhere right?  So even though there are European bread makers rolling over in their graves every time my bread maker goes into another cycle of kneading, I am finally on the road to trying new flavors, buying new ingredients, and experiencing something new in the kitchen.
My mother is an amazing cook.  At home we always have hot loaves of bread coming out of the oven, warm casseroles, delicious roasts, loaded baked potatoes, and dozens of other amazing dishes that keep young boys growing from one pair of pants to another.  But . . .  we didn’t really have any spices or flavors in the house that I would truly call “exotic”.  We grew up on foods that were delicious, filling, and economical. And although we never have or will know the pangs of an empty stomach at home, we siblings have to go out of our way to try new foods.   I have tried to share new foods at home, but I have been informed that my Mexican Hot Chocolate smells like shoe polish, and that basic tomato soup with rosemary and croutons in it is inedible.  Mom, I love you dearly, but the next time I come home, we will be trying some new flavors of bread in your kitchen.
I am not trying to complete these recipes in any particular order.  Beth’s bread maker recipe book includes 298 recipes for bread, 15 for jams and preserves, and dozens of other ideas of what to eat with your bread.
Today the bread artisans of Europe are cringing at the thought of me baking their “Pain cuit au feu de bois” in the droid-like machine that that is sitting on my kitchen counter.  The country or peasant breads of Europe are considered to be the pinnacle in bread making and with one taste of my excellent Peasant Bread I must admit I agree.  Country breads are known for using basic raw ingredients such as: organic flours, natural leaven, pure spring water, and sea salt which enhance the flavor of these traditional favorites.
"How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?" - Julia Child

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