I love making bread. I had the baking itch Friday night and decided to start my favorite bread, a really rustic, grainy, kind of gnarly looking bread called a Cocodrillo. I modified it from a recipe in Williams-Sonoma's Essentials of Baking, which is a gorgeous book full of big, full-color photos, and to which I jokingly refer as my "Food Porn." Seriously, the pictures, of brownies and cakes on deliberately messy, shabby-chic, flour-covered counters, or of someone's arms elbow-deep in a pillow of yeasty dough, are Pavlovian-reaction-inducing. Anyway, the recipe is a bit drawn out, but simple (it's really only 30 or 40 minutes of hands-on work spread out over an evening and a morning), and turns out two absolutely beautiful loaves of artisanal bread with so much flavor and the most amazing crust. I've passed it on to two first-time bakers and they had just as much success as I've had with it. You could sneak these onto the shelf at Whole Foods between the Ancient Grains Sourdough and the French Levain, and nobody would suspect that they didn't belong; they'd just ask the bakery dude to slice 'em. For real.
Side note: if you love baking or are just giving it a go for the first time, I'd strongly encourage you to pick up Essentials of Baking. My cake-loving roommate Angela has made a couple of the cakes with great results (I'm not much of a cake person, but Angela has a serious knack for them, ahem, single guys? Anybody? Anybody?), and I can also vouch for the deliciousness of the cookies and pies found therein. Really, it's a miracle I don't weigh 400 pounds.
I'm also in charge of the rolls for Thanksgiving, and was searching around for something unique. Well, I found it: a potato-dough bread that you can keep in the fridge for up to five days before you bake the rolls!! ACK! Amazing! So the dough's in my refrigerator right now, but I stole enough to make 8 little rolls just to test them, I swear.
My baking technique, while I'm on a roll here (HA!), is symptomatic of my fickleness. I told my friend Leesa that I have a disease called, "I can never, ever make a recipe as it's written or make anything the same way twice, even if it worked perfectly the first time." The old saying, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," clearly means nothing to me. I prefer to characterize that as a quest for excellence, but let's be real, people. It's totally just fickleness.