Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The First Bread

A contest on the Year in Bread blog (http://ayearinbread.earthandhearth.com/) asks for our favorite bread stories; here's mine:

I first started baking bread when we were poor graduate students; it made sense financially, and also psychologically--kneading (make that pounding) the dough took out a lot of frustrations built up from classes with conservative professors (this was the late 1960s). After doing ok with white bread, I decided to move on to whole wheat. Without Peter Reinhard to guide me, or Bernard Clayton, or King Arthur, I plowed ahead, making a dough of whole wheat flour rather than white. Only whole wheat. It never occured to me that some mixture of white and whole wheat would be a good idea. And, of course, I was using Gold Medal off the shelf. Really a rank, rank beginner.

I baked the bread. I had two loaves of small, grey, bricks. Heavy, solid. And essentially unedible. My loving bride took one taste and said, diplomatically, "I'm sure you'll do better next time." I took one taste and contemplated throwing out my loaf pans and breaking my rolling pin across my knees.

Luckily, at that point, two neighbors arrived, along with another graduate student. They'd all been drinking, and perhaps something else as well, it being the late 1960s, and were giddy. And hungry. I offered the bread. They devoured it, both loaves, among three people, in less than an hour.

And I learned a basic lesson, both for baking and for life: no matter how much you screw something up, there will always be people who think it's terrific. You just need to find them.

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