Let’s quit with the pre-trip stress for a moment, shall we? And let’s instead discuss one of my favorite kitchen activities: bread making.
I know, I know. We’re not allowed to eat bread any more. Because we’re all gluten-free and Paleo and watching our carbs and good Lord I am tired of hearing about why we’re not allowed to enjoy one of the world’s great pleasures: homemade bread. Did you know every single one of the world’s known cultures has had some form of bread? How about all the ways it’s used in common parlance? As money, as sustenance, as the body of Christ. It is that important. And to just reject however many thousands of years of anthropological food history because we’ve suddenly decided that one single mysterious non-ingredient makes us sick? No. Our entire modern food system is making us sick. But that’s not bread’s fault.
Let me be clear – I am in no way talking about soft, squishy supermarket bread. Bread should not remain fresh at room temperature for weeks. That is a violation of everything that “fresh bread” stands for, plus a rejection of flavorful peasant cuisine based on stale bread. Panzanella, pappa al pomodoro, fattoush…how do you make these when the bread stays fresh forever? I’m talking about homemade bread: flour, yeast, water, salt. At its heart, nothing more than those four, although of course the permutations are innumerable.
I’ve taught hundreds of cooking classes on every culinary topic imaginable, and I’ll freely admit that my homemade bread classes are my favorite. This is mainly because the effort is so much worth the reward – and people are always amazed that they can actually make delicious bread at home, especially at altitude.
And so, with no additional fanfare, allow me to introduce you to the magical world of bread baking at home. Start here. Then make this one. Move on to this. I’ve made all of these dozens of times, and they work perfectly – even in Denver. (If you’re above 6,500 feet, refer to this.) And when you really fall down the rabbit hole of homemade bread, try this. And for reference? Read this, this and this.
Please, bake a loaf of homemade bread at least once. For the pleasure of working with your hands. For understanding how four simple ingredients create true alchemy. For the aroma alone. It’s not nearly as difficult as you think it is. Then eat it warm, with good butter or olive oil. Or eat it plain, with nothing at all to interfere. Then make it into croutons or crostini or a lovely winter soup. And while you’re eating it, remember that civilizations were built on this. For good reason.
Wishing you a winter filled with homemade bread.