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Friday Bread Basket 3/11/22
Gonna use today’s bread basket to direct you to the the inaugural post for a new Substack newsletter, Thermal Death Point 138, written by my friend and mentor Mitch Stamm, one of the best bakers and best people that I know. When he mentioned awhile back that he was going to be starting a newsletter, I knew it would be great. But I had no idea quite how amazing it would be right from the get go. His first missive is the story of his friend Bogdan Krasnoperov, a baker from Ukraine:
Originally from Kharkiv, Bogdan Krasnoperov lives and works as a baker in Odessa. Exposed to land, air, and sea attacks, both cities are vulnerable, practically permeable. As an 18 - 60 year old male, he is registered and prepared for military service. While he waits to be called up, he and the cooks that work for a private business are working without wages 10 hours per day baking bread and preparing food for soldiers and journalists. Exhaustion has registered little effect on his voice; it remains still, resolute. Baking provides a fleeting respite from the horror, exacerbating it at the same time. His wish to do more for people and for peace in Ukraine grows stronger and more desperate each day. As if guided by St. Honore, his focus remains on others.
I’m tempted to quote the entire thing, but I’d rather you read it from Mitch directly (and that you sign up for the newsletter, because if you follow me here, you are going to want to add Mitch to your newsletter-roll). I did want to highlight one more lovely passage, which is connected to both Bogdan’s story and to the recipe that Mitch chose to share:
When I shape pretzels, I imagi-wonder how they came to be. Whether from desperation or deductive logic, who or what was the first to ingest a seed? How did the act of chewing a kernel lead to making a mush that became a lump that became a log that begat a tapered log that became the shape we recognize as the pretzel? How many bakers? How many repetitions? Iterations? Before we had a shape that resembles the heart and alludes to the flow & promise of the infinity symbol? How shall I shape this one? Arms up? Arms under? Ball at the end of the tapers? Thinner arms/wrists for a crunchier contrast to the softer, thicker base curve? Whether in language, art, or baking, I’m captivated by the power/factor/symbolism of “three.” For good, better, or worse, Body/Mind/Spirit and Farmer/Miller/Baker are common ones. When I feel dough in my hands, my body goes to work, my spirit soars, and my mind relaxes at the speed of light. It’s as if I’m touching time, sharing the experience, connecting with the spirit of all bakers, past and present.
Go read the rest, and maybe make some pretzels this weekend.
Mitch mentioned also that he and two of Bogdan’s other teachers, Peter Yuen and Michel Schröder, are going to hold a #BakeforBogdan Zoom fundraiser on Saturday, 3/12 (tomorrow), at 3pm EST. He’ll send out an announcement on the newsletter, so keep an eye out, it’s bound to be great.
This grim-sounding title refers to the temperature above which yeast begins to die off in the oven, a sacrifice that gives us the bread we all love.