Thursday, March 6, 2008

On Bread

Comrades, the honest loaf is under attack, and I call upon you to save it! It is assailed on one side by flimsy supermarket pap, and on the other by over-priced boutique brick. Worst of all, after many thousands of years as a proud anchor of the western diet, bread is threatened by hucksters that want to do away with it entirely! I'll just say that good bread is important. This person and this person have more good things to say on the subject.

Lots of people ask me, "Eric, what the is first step in the guerrilla gourmet revolution?" Actually, no one has yet asked me any questions in my capacity as comandante, but if someone were to ask me such a question, I would reply "Comrade, bake bread!" The essence of guerrilla cooking is in spending time and skill rather than money. Good bread from a store costs a great deal of money. Good bread from home requires nothing but time and skill..

Yet, oddly, many home chefs, even ones who would think nothing of spending three days on a cassoulet, think that baking takes too much time. Those who fearlessly whip together bearnaise sauce think that working dough requires some magical voodoo. It's true that good bread resists recipes. It's true that yeast, flour and water don't always get along quite the way you want them to. But patience and dedication (the qualities of the guerrillero) will pull you through in time.

So go out and bake your own bread. I'm not going to give you a recipe here; a nuanced description would fill too many column inches. But I will recommend venerable James Beard's Beard on Bread as my guide.