*Bread in this post refers to the western version. Not naan, parathas and the like.*
When I was in the hostel during my undergrad days, Friday mornings used to bring on a flurry of frowns to several faces around me. Friday breakfast provided by the "mess" was bread and kurma and quite a few students strongly objected to bread (hey, that's for prisoners!) being served for breakfast. Me, on the other hand, used to wait eagerly for Friday - I simply *loved* the toasted bread and vegetable kurma combination and it was easily my most favorite breakfast. Even at home, sandwiches for breakfast never evoked the kind of strong negative reaction like upma (gaaah) did. Bread omlette, toast, bread-upma, croutons, shahi tukre - I was up for everything bread.
My fascination for all things bread continued when I landed at grad school. I distinctly remember a period when I had two sandwiches - one each of jam and peanut butter - for lunch for almost *every* single week-day over a duration of three months. One fine day, I was midway through enjoying a peanut butter sandwich when my brain signaled, "Thus far and no more." I had to toss the rest of my sandwich and thus ended my love affair with peanut butter. But I still loved bread.
Anyways, bread has seen me through many a hungry evening when I do not have the time or the patience or the hunger-withstanding capacity to cook an elaborate meal before my stomach decides to digest itself into oblivion. When I casually mention my bread-based dinners to other folks, I always get a pitying "poor you" glance. Little do people know that toasted sour dough bread, olive oil and fresh ground pepper is pretty close to culinary heaven for me.
Anyways, I have tried all sorts of bread from the baked goods section - stone ground, dutch crunch (yummmm), sour dough, focaccia, pugliese and so on. The only bread I met which I didn't like was the multi grain, multi-whatever variety. But in a pinch, even that works.
Now it is obvious that I have an irresistible attraction to bread. Given that I am a fairly decent cook too, it has struck me only recently that I have never tried making bread. This thought has kept striking me on and off for almost a year now and finally in a serendipitous event, I found a link to recipe for focaccia in this blog which had followed the instructions from here.
Ah-ha. The instructions seemed quite straightforward and not too time consuming. Perfect! So last evening, while coming home from work, I stopped at Safeway to buy all the ingredients.
You would think that a person who has baked no kind of bread whatsoever before would be a little bit diffident about buying too much of ingredients which might go unused in case of a breaderly disaster. Not me.
I bought a big five pound bag of all purpose flour (really, is there anything else one can make with it, especially if you are fairly heath conscious?), not one, not two, but *six* packets of yeast, a big tin of sea salt (well, the small tin seemed too small) and jar of dried rosemary. After some prep last night, this morning the actual baking took place.
Contrary to what the original recipe said about pouring the raised dough into a baking tray, my dough was a healthy, firm specimen which had to be bodily lifted and dumped onto the tray for baking.
No smells of baking bread filled the house but after twenty minutes, I had nice looking golden crusted bread sitting in the pan. Whatever you might say, warm bread from the oven, even when it is not as light or spongy or bready as you would like it to be, still tastes heavenly. Of course, you also need to understand that I probably would eat hay too as long as it is topped with rosemary (rosemary has such a wonderful flavor, I tell you).
Now I can finally say that I *can* make my own bread. I probably will try making this bread again with minor variations but if anyone needs all purpose flour, I have got some for you!
p.s. While we are talking food, here is an awesome recipe for Chinese fried rice - I followed the recipe as is (minus soy sauce) and wound up with near-perfect fried rice. In the spirit of "what happiness I got, let the world get too" have been promoting the recipe ever since!
p.s.1. Sea salt does have a different (in a nice way) salty flavor.
p.s.2. Nopes, this blog hasn't changed into a food blog. Regular programming will resume next post.