Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Great Bread Experiment, Part One: Confessions of a Newbie Bread Baker

I have a little secret to share, and it's scandalous. You see, I'm in love with another man, and he's a member of the cloth. Even more shocking? Hubby doesn't mind! It's because the thing I'm in love with isn't his eyes or hair, it's his…


I'm talking about Brother Rick Curry, of course, author of The Secrets of Jesuit Soupmaking and The Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking. No, I've never met him, but his recipes are divine, if you'll excuse the pun.

The Secrets of Jesuit Soupmaking was a gift from my parents' neighbors when I was in graduate school. I'm not sure how they found it or whether they've tried it themselves. Maybe their thinking was along the lines of, "Hey, she's a budding cook, and she's Catholic! This is perfect!" Each recipe is accompanied by a story, either from the author's experience or from Catholic lore, and that's about all I paid attention to when I first got the book. The recipes were just too much for one person living alone, and I was intimidated by the stocks.

Fast forward four or five years to Hubby looking through our cookbook shelves and pulling it out with a "What's this?" He took making stock as a challenge, so the stars and ingredients aligned. We've made several recipes out of that book, which prompted Hubby to give me the Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking for Christmas this past year:

I'd heard that making bread was addictive, but I thought, "surely that bug won't bite me!" Even so, I was cautious, and it took some nudging by Hubby to get me to dip my toe into those floury waters with Focaccia:

Crispy on the outside and dense on the inside with a nice mix of herbs both in the bread and on top, it was delicious.

The next weekend, we made Irish Lamb Stew from Cooking Light, and I made onion rolls to go with it. These guys were more like the Sister Schubert rolls in texture and flavor (what is it with religious and bread baking?) with onion and dill in them.

The following weekend, with a freezer full of bread, we decided to take a little break from the baking. Our eating had not caught up with my bread production habits, so we settled for pizza dough, which I'd made a few weeks previously and a Deep Dish pizza from the Weight Watchers pizza cookbook.

See? Playing with leavening agents is addictive.

Finally, Superbowl weekend, with a pot of simmering meatballs in spaghetti sauce (my dad's recipe), I got back to the bread making with olive bread.

I'm a bad Italian and only like olives in stuff (not on their own), so I enjoyed this bread most dipped in the sauce that went with the pasta. Hubby, my carb enabler, really liked it.

Oh, and I'd like to note that I don't have a bread machine. Each of these projects was hand-kneaded. My only "cheat" is using the stand-up mixer for "beat for ten minutes"-type instructions. Yes, I make a big mess in the kitchen, but it's a yummy mess!

Okay, I'm hooked. My goal is to make each of the recipes, but I'm not going to commit to a timeline. Just look for bready updates to come! Atkins aficionados need not apply…

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