A guest blog by Dewey Christy, a supporter, employee mentor, and longtime friend of Beautiful Day
Some time last spring my wife came home from a visit with her friend K___, bearing in her hands a small jar that contained a gooey non-appetizing looking substance. Now K___ cooks all the time, and most of it is Indian, so looks are not everything, but this one had no redeeming scents of coconut, cilantro or coriander. It was just beige and blah. And small. Her daughter, a physician in Providence, had gotten into baking sourdough breads in this Covid 19 era, and K___ had sent a batch of starter.
Now I know that sourdough breads are complex, and that the starter has to be maintained, refreshed, fed, to keep it alive. It is like a pet or something, except that you don’t have to give it any love. And the baking process is mystical, involving rituals that are beyond the imagination of an amateur like me. I voted for throwing it away quietly, and never mentioning it to K___ again. My wife is nicer than me, and suggested (with a note of commandment) that we should at least try it once, so that she could face K___ without having to lie about the fate of that little, live, starter.
The starter came with a suggestion that instructions for turning this starter into bread, along with how to feed the starter, store the starter, etc. could be found on the website of The Baker, New Bedford. There I found a 25-minute course in how to turn a little jar of starter into a crusty European bread.
I like crusty European breads, and you can’t find them very easily in the markets in Barrington, so I grudgingly agreed to give it a try. Of course, first I had to acquire a big glass bowl, a kitchen scale that would read in grams, rising baskets (bannetons) and a suitable Dutch Oven.
But the bread was great. Crust that would cut your gums, and an inside that was moist and chewy! The only thing lacking was how to modify this bread so that it wasn’t just the plain bread explained on The Baker’s tutorial. The answer? Beautiful Day’s muesli! When you put some muesli into the dough you get delights of nuts, fruits, and the nuttiness of oats.
So, for those of you who care, I have used the recipe from The Baker (see the link at the end of this blog) except that I have added about 300 grams (2 – 3 cups) of muesli to the dough. It doesn’t quite look like The Baker’s bread, but it tastes good. 30 minutes baked in a covered Dutch Oven at 450 degrees, then ten to twelve minutes more baking with the top off to finish the crust.
This week I even branched out and made baguettes, with 25 minutes of baking over a pan of water to keep everything moist.
Early on in the process we discovered an interesting dilemma. The recipe makes about 2 kilos of bread. There are only two of us at home. This bread has no preservatives, and won’t last forever. So what to do with all that bread? Our solution is to make the bread in two loaves (or sometimes one big loaf and two small loaves) and keep one and give the rest away. It is a great exercise each week to think of who you can give the bread to that week. We have two children who live nearby with their own families, so in a pinch they can always take one, but think of all the other opportunities! Neighbors, friends, people who live far away in Cranston! I even have one friend in St. Louis who has suggested I could FedEx a loaf to him (I didn’t do that yet). Seems the right thing to do with a bread that has Beautiful Day built into it.
YouTube Tutorial for The Baker's here