I go through bread baking phases. When I first learned how to bake bread – back in 2003, in the apartment with a horrifically carpeted kitchen and tile on every surface – it was a revelation. We were broke, and the bread we bought was generally of the extremely inexpensive store-brand variety. Occasionally we’d get a Parmesan pepper baguette or a loaf of olive bread from Mary’s Market. Realizing that I could make an excellent sandwich loaf for not very much money – and also work out aggression from a long day of talking to angry customers – was just as wonderful as you might imagine.
Since then, I’ve gone back and forth. I baked regularly when we first moved to A2 and I was unemployed – but then I got a job and we decided we could splurge on a half loaf of something awesome from Zingerman’s from time to time – or we could stock up on half price breads at Plum after 8pm. I have no complaints about this. I like good bread, and I like not always having to make it.
But here’s the thing – there’s a whole world of breads out there, and I only know how to make a handful of ’em. In the last year I’ve made bagels and yeast rolls, zucchini bread and no-knead bread. In the next year, I want to learn about bread – breads of all kinds! 24 loaves in 12 months. I would consider this morning’s baking a preview for the main event.
We’ve been buying English muffins for the last few weeks in an attempt to perfect the breakfast sandwich – and even though I’m over the breakfast sandwich kick for the moment, I’ve been enjoying them smeared with peanut butter along with my breakfast Greek yogurt. I’ve had a couple of different English muffin recipes bookmarked for a while, so this seemed like a great project to take on this morning. With a pot of beef stock simmering on the stove, the kitchen was sufficiently warm for the first rise, and the running dishwasher provided enough heat for the second. I toasted the muffins in the cast iron, then transfered them to the toaster oven for the final bake.
The end result? 9 golden muffins, all very tasty but a little too dense, and lacking the nooks and crannies that are so good at catching melted butter and fresh jam. While that’s not going to stop us from eating them – we enjoyed a couple with tonight’s frittata – I think that next time I’ll be a bit more gentle in forming the muffins. Because there will be a next time. Maybe even this week.