Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Let's say we're installing a fancy-pants new water filtration system that features not only a three gallon undersink reservoir and a triple membrane filter unit, but also a sink-mounted dedicated spigot from which said fancy-pants filtered water will be dispensed to the masses (the masses being Red, The Girl, and myself). Let's say Red gets ninety-nine percent of the unit installed with deftness of hand and swiftness of wrench, but then he spends close to twenty minutes trying to correct a barely-visible-to-the-naked-eye imperfection in the seating of the faucet. I would say that said imperfection was not visible to the naked eye at all, but Red spent a full five minutes of that persnickety time trying to convince me that one side of the gasket under the spigot was one eighth of an inch higher than the other. This was the cause of much consternation to Red. I just wanted a drink of fancy-pants water.
Me: "Will it cause a leak?"
Me: "Then what's the problem?"
Him: "LOOK AT IT! Doesn't it just drive you crazy?"
(Red is Croatian, not German. I'm not sure if painstaking attention to detail is part of the Balkan/Mediterranean makeup, but it's certainly part of his).
Him: "Where's your German precision?"
Me: "My Irish 'Aw, feck it,'* took over fifteen minutes ago. Can I have a drink now?"
Not until Red fixed that gasket, I couldn't.
I do actually have some perfectionist tendencies. They tend to come out in my baking. I want neatly frosted cakes, beautifully risen loaves to feed five thousand, ethereal muffins peeping over paper liners. And for the longest time I tended to get things right (or at least acceptable). Except for bread. Bread eluded me for years. Then this book came along:
I mentioned last week that everyone should have one baking book. This is it. If you follow the master recipe in Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois' Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, you will succeed. You will make a tender, chewy loaf with a shatteringly crisp brown crust. Your husband, who grew up on handmade bread, will ask you if a new bakery opened up, for surely this loaf came from the hands of a professional, not the wife who consistently tries to serve you blocks of dehydrated golden Play-Doh? And you will merely smile and ask him to pass the olive oil and herb dip. It's that good.
And easy. If you've ever made Jim Leahy's no-knead bread, you have the idea. Dump, mix, ferment, bake. The Hertzberg-Francois twist is that you can refrigerate and keep the dough for up to a week. This means you can make the dough a couple of days ahead of your Italian feast and not have to worry about dough mixing and lasagne layering all at once. Also, if you've spent time corralling warm no-knead dough (AKA, the Swamp Thing's wheaty cousin) you'll appreciate the fact that the chilled dough is a lot firmer and easier to manipulate into a ball or pan.
So the easiness factor feeds my Irish side's "Aw, feck it." And the Vollkornbrot feeds my German side because... well, it's good (though not really authentic). This recipe, from the follow up book Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day, is full of whole wheat flour, rolled rye flakes, and wheat berries. It's naturally vegan and easy enough to mix in your sleep (provided you can sleep-walk to where you've stashed the rolled rye flakes in your pantry). And it's chewy, grainy delicious.
It's delicious at breakfast with butter:
It's delicious with this stuff (more on that tomorrow):
But I know what you're wondering - does it please Red and his quest for Teutonic-style perfection? Not so much; Red is a uniform crumb kind of man. He prefers breads free of seeds, whole grains, or any other obstructions. Like - dare I say it? - Irish soda bread.
Feck it. And pass the Earth Balance.
*Even after providing scores of the most revered poets, songwriters, and novelists, I still vote that the word "feck" may just be the greatest contribution that modern Ireland has given to the English speaking world. It just rolls off the tongue.