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Friday Bread Basket 10/20/23
Bread of the Charles
Hello from the Wordloaf Friday Bread Basket, a weekly roundup of links and items relating to bread, baking, and grain. In case you missed it (or were flummoxed by the missing-but-now-inserted link), please be sure to see the post I shared a few days ago about a discount deal you can get on a 1-year subscription to Chef Steps, where you’ll find recipes from yours truly and hundreds more that are probably even better than mine (including many breads):
Better without butter?
I just LOVED the new Eater story from Charlotte Druckman about the unbelievable creativity happening in the world of vegan baking right now: The Wonderful, Wonkafied World of Vegan Pastry.
Not only is it a treasure trove of information for anyone interesting in baking, vegan or otherwise, it gets across how much fun some pastry chefs and bakers are having figuring it all out on their own on this new frontier. Since no reliable alternatives for eggs or butter currently exist (though there are hints they may arrive soon, thanks in part to their hard work), a baker needs to begin at square one and work out an approach that works for their particular situation:
Without a codified prescription for getting from point A to point B, when it comes to making, say, an opera cake, everyone comes up with different paths. They use different ingredients, and those ingredients require different techniques. For a practice that relies on ratios, that means not reinventing the wheel but entirely changing the way you build it: You must revamp each step in the construction of a croissant to get a result that still resembles a croissant.
This is where molecular gastronomy becomes directly applicable. If you can’t use eggs but you want to achieve the same reaction eggs have in a recipe, you have to ask yourself, What makes an egg an egg? You’re looking at the chemical composition of the most basic ingredients; it’s molecular-level stuff.
“I’ve trained myself to think, Salt and fat and sugar make really tasty pastry … and really, pastry is just a combination of those things and sometimes flour,” Hrycko says. He was a savory chef in his past life and still likes “getting weird with goos and textural breakdowns.” He finds the “whole gastro thing” particularly apposite here because, in his opinion, “Vegan pastry requires a lot of that snuck in there, or things don’t work.”
I wanted to quote the whole thing, so please just go read it and be amazed too. (My friendand her coconut butter even make an appearance!)
In the nude kitchen
Jolene Handy shared a wonderful tribute to Maurice Sendak’s seminal
baking children’s book, In the Night Kitchen, using the very weird obsession some people have with the fact that, in it, Mickey is depicted without clothing. I’d forgotten that detail along with how much I love the book, so I’m grateful to be reminded of it:
This is another ‘Children’s Book’ that offers plenty for the adult reader, not to mention Sendak’s gorgeous illustrations which have a surreal, sometimes unsettling beauty. Mickey is only able to access the dreamworld after “shedding” his clothes. Makes me want to read Carl Jung.
In a final, televised interview, Sendak (who was a very funny and renowned curmudgeon) said this to Stephen Colbert on the Colbert Report:
I don’t write for children.
And somebody says, “That’s for children.”
— Maurice Sendak, 2012
Priya Krishna profiles the shape-shifting, world-traveling bread that is roti for the New York Times:
The word roti most likely originated in the Indo-Gangetic Plain, in what is now northern India, according to Krishnendu Ray, a professor of food studies at New York University. As a result, many people assume that the food itself was born there.
But Dr. Ray said the notion of a round, unleavened bread is so basic that it’s hard to pinpoint an exact provenance.
Still, the word is used in many countries because South Asians brought their version of roti to different parts of the world through both forced and free migration. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, more than a million people were taken from the subcontinent to places like the Caribbean, Malaysia and Thailand as indentured servants working on plantations, Dr. Ray said. During the same period, other South Asians traveled to these countries freely as merchants and in other roles.
The basic recipe for roti evolved to suit the needs of each region, he said. Fat, like oil or butter, was often added to make the bread tastier and more durable. Refined flours took the place of whole-wheat flour because they were cheaper and more shelf-stable.
Did ‘The Great British Baking Show’ “Bread Week” Ruin the Netflix Show’s Positive Momentum? I do not know, since I have never seen the GBBO.
That’s it for this week’s bread basket. Have a peaceful weekend, see you all on Monday.