7/11/11

Reclaim your bread!

I was ravenous the other day, and nothing was going to do the trick of satiating my roaring tummy like a piece of warm bread, dipped in a bit of olive oil, salt, garlic, and herbs. Unfortunately, there wasn't enough bread to feed me and the customers, and it's not fair for me to eat all the bread when there are so many other things here that I can eat, especially since I have access to plate, forks, knives, etc. and someone who needs a sandwich because they're on the go is better served with said bread. I was not to be deterred, however.

As we all know, bread stays fresh for just about the day that it's baked. After that, it becomes hard, and seemingly inedible. This is when you use that bread for breadcrumbs, crostini, croutons, etc. In fact, crostini, croutons, and breadcrumbs taste best only when made from day old bread.

Actually, let me clarify this, in case I get anyone angry at my previous statement. As we all know, good bread stays fresh for about the day it's baked. Horrible bread, filled with all kinds of chemicals, and stabilisers, and the taste of disappointment, will stay fresh for days and days. If you refrigerate horrible bread, it'll stay fresh for weeks. I'm serious. I had bought some really rank, awful sliced white bread from an unnamed major company. It stayed screaming fresh for like two weeks in my fridge. I was so creeped out that I quietly screamed inside as I saw my family eat the stuff.

Ever since working here at Chow, I've become a bit of a snob about baked goods, because I'm surrounded by only the best of the best. Bread should be baked earlier that day, and devoured as soon as humanly possible. It should grow hard within a day or so, at which point you use it for other applications, and use a fresh set of bread the next day. When you toast a piece of bread, a most heady aroma of wheat, yeast, and love should fill the air. It should be soft and puffy on the inside, and crispy on the outside. It should be poetry.

But none of this was going through my brain, as I searched for something to sate my appetite for bread.

Suddenly, it came to me. I used to read Heloise's Hints books as a kid. My mum got a bunch from a yard sale, or when someone was moving and left her all their books. If you haven't read her books, go find the older ones. They're fantastic, and bursting with ideas to make your life easier in the home. Anyway. I recall a trick she had to revive day-old bread. This is why I'm saying to read the old ones. The newer ones wouldn't address it, because how many people actually keep bread for only a day? I digress.

She said that you should take the bread, and wrap it in a damp towel overnight in the fridge. The next morning, you put it in the oven, and you have refreshed bread. I tried it, and was amazed at how well it worked! Mind you, it's fairly easy to tell when said trick has been used. The crust will be very crackly, instead of smooth and even. It's fine for if you're looking to dip bread in olive oil etc., but not so good for sandwiches, as the crust will form shrapnel that goes flying all over the place. Also, because the crust is so crackly after being revived, biting into a loaf with fillings will mean that the fillings will also end up all over the place.

At that moment, however, I wanted to eat the bread, and not make a sandwich from it. This was perfect. I was impatient, so I didn't bother to wrap the thing in a towel overnight. Instead, I sprinkled the surface of the bread with water, and made sure that the outside was slightly damp (not soaking wet). Bake it for about 12 - 20 minutes (depending on the size of the loaf) at 350 F (325 if it's a convection oven) until it's lightly toasted outside, and steamy and fluffy on the inside. A longer skinnier loaf will need less time than a fatter loaf.

Then, when it's done, go to town, and eat.
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