As I've said in my intro, and in my profile, I've been cooking for years. YEARS and years. And over those many (many....) years, I've gotten pretty darned good at it. I learned to cook from my mother, as many of us do. She wasn't the most adventurous cook, but she did it with love and joy. Everything she put on the table got a little piece of her along with it. Everyone who walked in our door was offered food. Those were probably the biggest lessons I learned from her.
We used to love to watch the old-days cooking shows on PBS together; Julia (of course), Martin Yan, "The Frugal Gourmet", Pierre Franey, Justin Wilson, that was our Saturdays when I was growing up. And "The Galloping Gourmet" after school.
As I started to cook for myself, and I got exposed to more "exotic" cuisine than beef stew and salmon patties (not that there's anything wrong with those), I discovered I LOVED Indian food, Asian food of all sorts (Thai, Vietnamese, Filipino, Japanese, Cambodian, Korean, you name it, I love it). And, of course, growing up in Southern California, you eat Mexican food almost frequently as you eat whatever “American” food is in your house. Add in Caribbean, Greek, Italian, French, Spanish, Middle Eastern, and Polish (which is the “home country” for me), and you can get the sense I really have never met a cuisine I didn’t like.
So, that’s where my culinary head is at, as they say. My tastes, and my menus, are all over the map. I’ll rocket from Spam Musubi to Sloppy Joes to a beef rib roast to stuffed Italian peppers to enchiladas in the course of a week. I hope you’ll find that as interesting and exciting as I do.
The real reason for this blog though, lies in the title. “A Pound Of Yeast”….
Above all else, I am a carbohydrate nut. Pasta, rice, potatoes, I can eat my weight in them. But bread, ahhhhhh, bread holds a special place in my soul. Especially *good* bread. None of that pasty “white-bread-who’s-brand-name-starts-with-a-‘W’-stuff”. Good, crusty, hearty bread. “Artisanal” they call it these days (‘though I loathe that term, especially when applied to a mass market product). You know the bread. With sweet butter, and some fleur de sel sprinkled on top, I could eat an entire, fresh, warm loaf in one sitting. Forget meat, forget veggies, give me the bread, sweet butter and salt. And some wine…
I’d tried making bread back when I was a young, snot-nosed know-it-all cook. After all, *I* could cook ! How hard can it be to bake bread ?
Pretty darned hard it turns out. Unless you’re willing to learn about the technique (and the chemistry of how the ingredients interact), and how to manipulate the dough, and how to read how the flour is behaving, and how the weather is interacting with the flour and water in the dough and so on. And to take the time to let the magic of the yeast, flour and water happen. I believe that’s another way of saying, you’ve got to learn patience and a certain level of maturity. Which I certainly didn’t have all those years ago.
About three years ago, I decided to give bread, and baking in general, a go again. But this time, I read. I studied. I bought books (and checked others out from the library). I read on-line tutorials, and visited web sites (some of which you’ll see linked here in the future), and learned from other’s mistakes and other’s successes. And I went out and bought that expensive little 3-pack of yeast, and took a deep breath, and used the recipe from the owner’s manual for my KitchenAid, and…..made bread.
I made bread.
I remember being so damned pleased with myself when it ROSE. The yeast, I didn’t kill the yeast ! It ROSE ! It smelled good. The crust was crackly and dark. The crumb was pretty decent. I’d made bread. The shape was a bit off, and my slashing on the top left much to be desired, so when it hit the oven, it sort of mushroomed, but it was bread. And it tasted good with that sweet butter and fleur de sel. And I was hooked.
Since then, I’d say I make bread at least twice a month (unless it’s summer and unbearably hot, then the idea of turning on the oven to 400-plus degrees loses just a bit of allure….). I make pizza dough, and usually have at least one crust’s worth stashed in my freezer. I’ve conquered biscuits and scones. I’ve done brioche (yay !) and King Cake for Mardi Gras. And just within the last month, I finally, finally figured out pie crust.
So, even though this place is called “A Pound Of Yeast”, it won’t always be about baking. And it won’t always involve yeast. Somedays, it may not even involve cooking, if the fuzz-bomb sous chefs do something particularly adorable, they’re fair game. But it will always be from the heart, as it was with my Mom all those years ago, and it will always be done with conviction. If it works, great, we’ll celebrate. If it doesn’t, we’ll commiserate over a glass of wine, and enjoy watching Rosie and Lulu snarf up the remains. I’m glad to have you along for the journey.
Because it’s really all about having the courage to order up that “Pound Of Yeast”, in whatever form that happens to be.