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Monday, May 22, 2006

my daily bread

On a whim, I signed up for a bread class yesterday afternoon, and headed out to Zingy’s bakehouse to learn the secrets of their artisan breads. I stepped into the bakery, and was engulfed with the heat and the yeasty fragrance of a huge room dedicated to bread. A small group of us tied on aprons, stuck on name tags, and poured giant glasses of water before lining up at a wood-topped work table to begin our first lesson on shaping the bread.

I have made bread at home a handful of times, and do make pizza dough regularly, but I’ve never seen bread dough so alive, so gassy, so pliable as the dough we worked with. We learned how to move the bread, how to feel its springiness, how to keep from tearing the bread or not sealing the bottoms.

In between our hands-on dough work, we learned about the history of the bakery and saw the various tools they use to aid in the bread making process, most of which is done by hand, which helps give the breads their artisan qualities.

After a second shaping and proofing, we placed the rounded loaves on the “conveyer,” slashed the tops, and slid them into the giant French ovens. As our loaves rose and baked into golden-crusted goodness, we tasted other varieties of breads, from Potato Dill to Sesame Semolina.

And finally, the piece de resistance: we were invited to select a variety of loaves to take home. Since our class was so small, each of us went home with two huge brown-paper bags filled with bread...around 20 loaves in all! I was giddy with Christmas morning excitement. The beautiful baguettes and free-form loaves were mine to enjoy! I loaded them into my car, and drove off with the scent of fresh baked bread saturating the air I breathed.

I decided to stop at Zingy’s deli to buy some cheese to enjoy with my breads--a chunk of 5 year aged Vermont cheddar, and a round of fresh mozzarella. I bought a Vanilla Latte (with authentic Mexican vanilla!) and a dangerously hedonistic sugar crisp muffin, aka “donut muffin” to enjoy on my drive home...

Once home, I selected the French baguette as my bread du jour, as it doesn’t keep as well as the other multifarious loaves. I sliced the baguette, toasted the rounds, rubbed them with garlic. I sauteed farmer’s market spinach with balsamic vinegar, roasted red peppers, whirled together a white bean pate, sliced my mozarella, and cooked a quick tomato, garlic, basil topping. I poured a generous glass of Pinot Noir, and enjoyed a plate of small bites, placing them together in endless combinations. Delicious!

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