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Three Months of Homemade Bread for Alex: Part III

July 25, 2011

The present I gave to Alex on his birthday – three months of continuous fresh bread in the house – has been interrupted by travel and illness. I’m choosing to treat it like a school year; imagine that we had too many snow days and so school is continuing later into the summer. As you can see, I’ve started to stray a bit from bread into bread-like treats. Oops. Some of the best recipes I’ve made recently are included below. You can check out previous updates on this present here  (Part I) and here (Part II).

  • Raincoast crisp crackers using this Dinner with Julie recipe. I loved these, but others weren’t as fond. I like the main batter quite a lot, and baking them twice achieves a neat texture. (You have to be sure to keep them in an airtight container to maintain it.) But the mix of fillings added to the batter didn’t quite add up to awesome for me. I’ll try a different combination on the next go-around.
  • Black bread from a Smitten Kitchen recipe. This recipe calls for 17 ingredients, ranging from chocolate to shallots to caraway seeds, and each and every one of them is worth including. Strangely, the bread doesn’t seem to have been gobbled up quickly. That might be because the bread is a bit dense, potentially making it more appropriate in colder months.
  • Graham crackers per Nancy Silverton’s “Pastries From La Brea Bakery.” I can’t figure out what it is that makes these taste so good. It couldn’t be the wheat germ. Could it? They taste like they are flavored with some kind of magical spice blend, but there’s actually not a single spice in them. These crackers would make for one killer graham cracker pie crust.
  • Anise biscotti from this Food52 recipe. The flavor reminds me of Italian desserts my grandmother used to make – a great walk down memory lane. I also loved how clear and simple the recipe was. Now I’m determined to grow anise next summer. (It’s easy to grow, quick to flower and thus seed, and has delicious leaves.)

In previous updates on this project, I’ve shared lessons learned from of this bread-baking. Maybe the learning curve is starting to flatten, because I have only one lesson to share this time around:

  • Don’t be afraid to second guess the recipe. Alex and I sometimes feel that we should make each recipe precisely as it’s written for at least the first go, saving experimentation for later attempts. I still think there’s value in sticking closely to the original, but sometimes you just know there’s something wrong with a recipe. For example, if it calls for combining your a yeast mix with hot liquid, don’t follow blindly or your dough won’t rise. Recipes are frequently imperfect – both in cookbooks and in blogs – so keep your head about you and share feedback when you can.

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