Katie (Thyme For Cooking) recently posted a meme that I particularly liked.
1,2,3 You’re IT
- Pick up the nearest book.
- Open to page 123.
- Find the fifth sentence.
- Post the next three sentences.
- Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.
I haven’t actually been tagged for this meme but I’m going to complete it anyway. And because I wasn’t tagged, I do not feel compelled to complete step 5. (However, do feel free to consider yourself tagged if you’d like to participate.)
Katie chose two books because she had been tagged by two people. I’ve chosen two books because like Katie, I’m reading two books at the same time.
The first excerpt is from our “read aloud before dinner” book, We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich. The second excerpt is from my “reading before going to sleep” book, The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum.
1. We Took to the Woods by Louise Dickinson Rich
First published in 1942, We Took to the Woods is a wonderful memoir of Dickinson Rich’s time living in a remote area in the woods of Maine. The thing I find really remarkable is how timely the book is, even though it was written more than half a century ago.
My idea of an ideal costume is slacks worn low on the hip bones and a cotton shirt with sleeves rolled up and the neck band unbuttoned. I can wear that here. I look thoroughly sloppy but here it doesn’t matter.
2. The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum
I just got it out of the library and I am loving this book!! I’m a little sorry that page 123 is already into the recipe section. I was so hoping it would be in the first or last sections of this really valuable book.
3 > Fill the muffin containers. Spoon or pipe the batter into the muffin containers, filling them three-quarters full. Pour a little water into the unfilled muffin cup to prevent uneven baking.
What I really like about The Bread Bible is that it really is written for the home cook. Not that she talks down or leaves out an essentials. She just isn’t in the least way elitist. I liked her immediately when I read her thoughts on hand-kneading in the introduction. Has she been in my kitchen too? Did she hear me say pretty much the same thing?! I hope that Beranbaum doesn’t mind me quoting from her book again:
Occasionally people suggest that making bread, particularly kneading it, must be a great way to get out aggression. The irony is that when I start making bread, I am immediately blissed out and any possible aggression immediately evaporates. I don’t need to pound the bread with my fists to arrive at this blessed state.
I too find it impossible to get out aggression with bread dough. I simply cannot stay mad the moment I start kneading. The dough won’t let me. It’s just too pleasing. All that happens when punching it is that it simply turns the other cheek. Not to mention that the punch is immediately softened as the dough refuses to be hit and simply gives way.
Although I haven’t made any of the recipes from the book (there are several), the section entitled “The Ten Essential Steps of Making Bread” at the beginning of the book has already been invaluable. She has even swayed me into accepting (almost) the label “barm” that so put me off with the latest BBB challenge. I do hope I’m not offending Beranbaum or her publishers by quoting her again:
Don’t be put off by strange-sounding names, like barm, biga, chef, desem, levain, madre bianca, mother, pâte fermentée, pollish sponge, starter or sourdough starter. At first these terms put me off, and I was resolved to avoid them in this book, thinking that the all-encompassing term starter was all I really needed, but gradually these special words became familiar friends.
She goes on to define each of each of these “strange-sounding names” in lay-terms. Further on are handy tips on how to adjust existing recipes to make them “suit your taste“, how added ingredients can affect dough, ideal mixing and rising temperatures, pros and cons of hand vs various machine mixers, shaping techniques, etc. etc.
The back section of the book has extensive descriptions of ingredients. While the examples of flours are USA brands, it is still a valuable resource for any reader. The section on freshness is particularly interesting, especially now as flour prices are soaring and some people are foolishly buying up large quantities to hoard before the price goes even higher.
Again, I hope to be forgiven for quoting the book one more time:
I have to confess that for years I never believed flour could get stale, as long as I couldn’t smell any off flavors, but I was dead wrong. I learned the now-unforgettable lesson when developing the recipe for the baguette. No matter what I tried, I couldn’t get those lovely open holes in the crumb. […] I learned that unless you freeze flour, it is essential to date it the moment you bring it into the house and then ruthlessly throw it out after 3 months if it’s whole wheat or rye, after one year if it’s white flour. No ifs, ands, or buts. As flour ages, it loses its strength. […] Flour isn’t expensive enough to risk wasting your time with an expired one.
There are also yeast conversion charts, including a paragraph on how to convert a recipe calling for commercial yeast into one using wild yeast. And another section on how to adjust the liquid content if using honey rather than sugar or vice versa.
Thank you Rose Levy Beranbaum!! After this book goes back to the library, it is going on my “why yes please, I’d LOVE to be given that” list. Actually, it’s already on the list…
Real Baking with Rose Levy Beranbaum