— Apparently I forgot to hit publish on this one. But bread. And while I’m less anxious and sleeping better, it’s still weird times and difficult times and bread is a big part of it. I’m thankful for that and for the fact that I can get flour much easier now than in March/April. There’s a nice rye and seed bread rising in my kitchen as I write these words. —
April 2nd 2020
I have so many thoughts right now. Many of them thankful, many of them anxious, my sleep has been troubled by teething toddlers and distressing dreams, I’m suffering from craft paralysis and delighting at the birds we see on our one daily walk. This is by all definitions, a weird time. That said, it’s all I will say about it, because talking about bread is more interesting and infinitely less stressful.
BREAD! My goodness I love bread. And with a week to Holy Thursday it seems fitting to talk about bread. Now, I realize that several hashtags have cropped up in the last few weeks #coronabaking #quarantinebaking #pandemicbakes etc. and that countless people have been trying their hand (and patience) at making sourdough. But I am here to tell you that like a proper indie kid (yup, that’s what hipsters were before they were cool) that I started my sourdough before going into lockdown, mmmk?* Having had the privilege to wander about a good little chunk of Europe in my time** I would like to extol the virtues of a few of my favourite breads, ever.
Chapter 1 – Deutschland
German bread is the first bread that made me stop in my tracks and wonder how on earth I had survived without it. I’d had rye bread before, but not like this. Every kind was unique, magical and completely surprising. Dense, serious bread. Amazing for sandwiches if you cut it thin, but so good mostly I just wanted it thickly sliced with loads of butter. Bread so full of seeds you couldn’t tell how it stayed together. Bread with mysterious crazylongcompositenames and among them, a humble loaf stood out: roggenweizenbrot, cracked at the top, dusted in toasted flour, moist, hearty, but not over the top. Also, this one time in Munich, I found the most beautiful bread in the entire world.
Chapter 2 – England
Yeah, I know. But seriously, thick white toast with butter and strawberry jam (or marmalade) in good company, with strong tea has a special charm. And I’m not sure what it is exactly but the white bread here seems to lack the strange chemical aftertaste of it’s North American counterparts.
Chapter 3 – Nederland
Chapter 4 – France
Now, of course everyone knows about baguette and how the French are obsessed with bread, etc. And so, I don’t know why I didn’t think that it could be completely mind blowing. I guess Germany had my heart and so I figured that was that? Boy, was I wrong. France is wonderful and charming and ridiculously amusing to me in ways that it can perhaps only be to a non-French francophone, I’m not sure I could live there… but I want to imagine doing so. From the baguettes (which come in varying defined degrees of doneness) and the ficelles (as sandwiches or “au chocolat”) all the way to the incredible, amazing presumably 3kg or so giant loaves of fig and hazelnut “pain de campagne” baked until the crust is just on the edge of burning to a crisp and sold by the weight of the chunk that the baker saws off with aggressive skill… c’est tout bon. But the absolute delight of our foray into the Boulangerie (because the patisserie is a whole other story) is a seasonal delight – pain de poires. Bread dough, not brioche, presumably mixed pretty wet and wrapped around half a sliced pear, baked until it’s one beautiful carb and caramel compound that is really the only thing I want to eat – other than a nice piece of cheese.
*Let’s face it, I’m an INFP and probably an Enneagram 4 too. This stuff is really important to me. I am annoyed at other people doing things I like, even without the increased difficulty in sourcing flour.
** You know, like, pre-March2020.
***Fries Suikerbrood doesn’t count as real bread. But it is pretty magical.