No one breaks bread any more. Back in the day, when Jesus and the dinosaurs were rolling around arguing over magic tricks and biting the heads off Roman soldiers, bread was the thing. It was all bread. Pharaohs got buried with their Hovis and their jewels. Caesar threw bread parties where little birds flavoured with gross spices like cinnamon and cloves and endurance sex sessions, were served up alongside baked wheat goods. Fossils hidden by God somewhere south of Bethlehem show perfectly preserved loaves of Aramaic Mighty White in the fossilized belly of the Dinosaur King who trampled around the holy land looking for Spielberg, Goldblum and Laura ‘Tan Shorts’ Dern.
Baking is it. Last year it was just cooking. Last year was Masterchef. This year (By this year I mean last year. 2013 is an uninteresting void. January is absence, a nothing, a blank page never to be written upon. It sort of doesn’t exist until June) is that baking comp in a tent with an old lady and ‘grey-bear club owner from 1979’ judging and Giles Coren presenting. People make cakes and cry and get icing in the hair and cry and beat one another’s skulls in with marble rolling pins. They force their rival’s fingers into the spinning blades of a food processor and the Granny-Judge samples slices of grim eggy Bakewell Tart whilst arterial blood spurts across her wrinkly brow from a contestant who got too close to another competitor’s palette knife.
My Nan made better cakes than anyone so now she’s not here, I don’t see the point of eating anyone else’s. I’m not interested in ’em. Take yr tarts and flans and fling them at the mirror whilst hating yourself.
The only cakes I’m secretly making are the Momofuku Milkbar ones. Christina Tosi, Queen Milkbar and author of said book, is the closest thing to a Nan I have left. You should buy the book, it’s sweet but if you don’t, just know that you should put buttermilk in yr sponge cakes. It makes them taste of America, Connecticut and Nancy Reagan.
So with cakes off limits; I’m making bread. Bread will usurp cake. ‘The Tartine Bread’ book is by Chad Robertson. The dude is dreamy. Check this buff flour lord out!
Look at the ‘burns/pec combo on him! As a baking bloke who do you want to look like? Dave Hovis?
No, you want to look like Commander Flour, Chad Robertson. His recipe for a basic country loaf is time, money and gas consuming. But it does make this:
It was genuinely one of the nicest breads I’ve ever eaten. It was what miserable old gits think bread used to taste like, entirely forgetting the fact that it was their generation who went gaga for cheap mass produced everything after the war. Sliced bread was their IPhone. I think Hovis and their ‘fwom up Norrfffff’ schtick began in an old armaments factory. Once there was no need to make hand grenades and Spitfire bullets, Dave Hovis switched the production line to make crappy bread that tasted of brown and Hull. This was lapped up by the returning heroes of WW2 and Anna Friel and her Landgirl gal-pals. Remember that next time Granddad is whining again. It’s all his fault. Those kids mining for Xbox wires with their bare hands? That’s on him.
This is the foul concoction that will make bread that tastes this good. The starter.
The simple mix of flour, water and airborne yeasts that will, if treated better than those weird dudes treat those weird life sized dolls that they are honestly not humping nightly, make unbelievable bread. Every day for nearly two weeks I was throwing eighty percent of the sour smelling muck away and feeding the gross remainder fresh water and flour. It was like waiting hand and foot on a miniature Jabba The Hutt, in a jar. Feeding it and feeding it like a skit on the first Wu Tang album. Every morning the same smell, the same struggle to minimize the mess, flour and gobs of starter stuck everywhere. Asking my wife, every day, for the same maths:
“What’s twenty percent of three four eight grams?” Says Sam wrestling with a mass of fermenting, stinking dough.
“What’s that stench? Is that you?” Says Sam’s wife, hating him.
God damn it was boring. But eventually worthwhile. Look at that bread. It looks pro and it tasted better. I’ll continue next time and yap on about the actual baking in another exciting installment of “Bread: But not that shit television series“.