Lest you think I am singularly focused on deserts I want to talk about bread, another delicacy that I love to make. Most bread for sale in your local market is a far cry from the tender, yeasty, and delicious toasted, bread that you can make at home. Most mass-produced breads have an off odor and doughy texture that for me is quite unpleasant. Even “healthy” breads like Dave’s Killer Bread have a strange scent of vinegar and no comforting yeast smell at all. Check the label. If it says “artisan” chances are it’s not. If it says “gourmet”, no way. If it says “whole grain” it is likely that the first, most prevalent ingredient is still white flour. Unbleached, bleached, no matter – the fact is most breads, and I’m talking to you Whole Foods, are full of white flour. And just because a bread has a bunch of seeds on it or in it should not mislead you. Is its primary ingredient whole-grain flour? It should be. White flour is not intrinsically bad or unhealthful for you but it is very high in simple carbohydrates and should be consumed in moderation.
I could do a whole blog post on Safeway’s “Artisan” French and Italian loaves – it’s Wonder Bread with a leaden crust – but there are some good guys out there too. Most of what Grand Central bakes is head and shoulders above the rest and Marsee Baking puts out some delicious breads too. My friend Ellen served a to die for baguette baked in a small shop near her – good bread is out there. But if you want really good bread to serve to your family and guests make it yourself. It’s not that difficult. I have a dill (or optionally, you can use rosemary,) bread recipe, Dill Casserole Bread, that is made in the food processor, does not require kneading and wins rave reviews every time. Even traditional breads requiring kneading and rising are not difficult but you must factor in the time needed to make a loaf. If I am baking bread for a dinner party I usually start the bread first thing in the morning.
This brings me to the burger buns shown above. I mixed them together in about 30 minutes yesterday, let the dough rise for an hour, divided the dough into seven small portions, let them rise for 45 minutes and then baked them for about 20 minutes. Almost half of the flour used is whole-grain rye flour, a much healthier alternative. They smell heavenly baking, taste delicious, and have that tender texture that you don’t usually find in store-bought. The recipe for Sesame Seed Buns can be found on Bon Appétit magazine’s website.
Finally, I’d like to add that I had some good teachers when I learned the art of bread making. Interestingly, none of my family were bread makers, but several of my friends were and I learned the basics from them. I think of them every time I place dough on a lightly floured board and begin kneading. One friend introduced me to a terrific book entitled The Complete Bread Cookbook by Ted and Jean Kaufman, Grammercy Press. It contains wonderful, no-nonsense recipes for all kinds of breads. The batter dinner rolls are delicious, easy, and always a hit. The same goes for the sensational challah, chewy bagels, or savory whole-wheat bread. The book is out of print but it is available, used, at Amazon.com. If you love bread, get a copy of this great book before they’re all gone.