Saturday, April 14, 2007

from scratch

Passover ended. We went back to eating breads, pastas, and leavened foods with gusto. Woohoo! Hurray for Yeast! As I've taken over making almost all our bread, I've come to really grasp the Passover story. You're on the run, leaving slavery, becoming a refugee, and there isn't time for bread to rise. It's matzo (think crumbly crackers, if you've never eaten any) or hardtack or manna, from now on. Anyway, we did our eight day holiday of remembering slavery, we're back to normal, right?

I didn't have any challah in the freezer, and I'd run out of white flour. Challah, a rich, sweet eggy bread, is what most Jews eat on the Sabbath (Friday night to Saturday night)--especially for Friday night dinner. It makes the meal special. It tastes like brioche, and leftovers make killer French toast or chocolate bread pudding.

I made some whole wheat bread instead, because the professor is away this weekend at a conference in Paris,(That is, Paris, Tennessee!!) so, no rush to make a fresh batch of challah. On my errands yesterday, I visited our brand new chain store bakery, Panera. To my surprise, they had one loaf of challah there for sale. If you want challah here, you have to special order it, or bake it yourself. It's not ever just available, since few people want it, or have heard of it.

I noticed that Panera posted a sign stating that they made their ingredients available in case of allergies, so even though I'd bought the challah, I asked for the ingredients. They had to download it; they scarcely sell challah and folks don't ask for ingredients lists. Since I try not to mix milk and meat at home, and I like to know what I eat, I wondered what was in this loaf. While I waited, the manager told me it took three days to special order this bread if I ever wanted it again; they don't plan on stocking it unless I order it specially. It was only available on Fridays, and... Oh dear.

For comparison, here's what's in my challah:
water, yeast, sugar, two eggs, white flour, olive oil, salt
I brush the top of the braided loaves with: one egg, some sugar and sprinkle on top poppy seeds or sesame seeds or salt, according to mood.

I make them four at a time, and freeze them. I aim to use organic ingredients and free range eggs, when possible. It's probably $5 of ingredients, and an hour's worth of active effort.

Here's what's in the $2.25 loaf I bought: (do you know what some of these things are?! I don't)
INGREDIENTS: Unbleached flour (wheat flour, malted barley flour), water, bread base (wheat flour bleached, dextrose, palm oil, dry whey [a milk protein], salt, mono & diglycerides with BHT and citric acid as preservatives, corn flour, soy flour, DATEM, vital wheat gluten, calcium salts, leavening [monocalcium phosphate], wheat starch, calcium carbonate, ascorbic acid as dough conditioner, calcium iodate, enzymes, soy lecithin, l-cysteine, silicon dioxide, tricalcium phosphate), honey, pasteurized whole egg, yeast, brown sugar, egg shade (water, FD&C Yellow #5, citric acid, and sodium benzoate).

Not surprisingly, in a Joanne's home alone and bored taste test, this challah was chewy like bubble gum, vaguely sweet tasting, and it smelled? Like toe cheese... and not in a good, Limburger way, if you know what I mean. While I don't like wasting food, I didn't eat more of this bread. It seemed safer not to.

I stopped at the grocery store and bought organic white flour.

Last week at the library, I bumped into someone and we bemoaned the local bread situation. I desperately miss Guglhupf, the European bakery that was around the corner from my house in Durham, North Carolina. As I said, "I make all our bread," I thought, have I turned into some sort of overkill loony? Some uppity Gen-X hippie? And my answer?

No, I'm not. This ingredients list (What is DATEM?) is why I make our bread. Oh, and if I am a crunchy granola health nut crazyhead? Whatever, call me what you want. I'd rather eat the bread I make tastes a lot better. Only thing better? That Guglhupf bread, now 8+ hours drive away from my house.

So, do you live near an Independently Owned, Artisanal Bakery? Oh, pretty please -count your blessings--and tell me all about it!


Blogger Denise said...

Joanne, here's a link to information about DATEM:

It sounds like this is perhaps what made your bread chewy.

I love my own homemade bread. Too much maybe. That's probably why I don't bake much anymore! ;-)

The challah at the local chain stores here (when available) all taste like bagels. Not bad but not exactly challah-like either.

I can't remember how many specialty bakeries, both organic and not, we have here in Olympia. More than two anyway. If you should ever come and visit we'll do the bakery tour! There are some lovely bakeries down in Portland too.

April 14, 2007 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger Joanne said...

Wow, Denise, thank you for the link. I admit, I could have wiki'ed DATEM myself, but I was a little afraid. Now that I've read what it is, I am not reassured!

April 14, 2007 at 4:07 PM  
Blogger Peggy said...

I love making my own bread, particularly sour dough, but my dear husband has been on that low carb thing for some time now so it leaves too much for me to eat. I love homemade bread too much and it likes me. It attaches itself to my body in ways I'm not fond of. :) There was a French Bakery in Elizabethtown a couple of years ago ran by French brothers. Their baguettes were just like you get in France. It was heaven. But they shut down. :( So I kinda know how you feel about missing your bakery.

April 14, 2007 at 7:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here in Rochester NY we are blessed with a number of small family bakeries. In fact there is one only a block from my home. There is a large Italian population and there are at least 6 family run ones, one of which has been in business since 1914! Then there is Wegmans. They are our hometown grocery store that is slowly growing regionally. The eat side of our county have a large Jewish (i.e. Kosher)population and the stores on that side of the county always have Challah (sometime even braided).

When my kids were still at home I baked every week and then prayed that it would last until the next batch was baked.

I do know that as a child living on the Gulf Coast, the Jewish moms in my neighborhood had to make their own breads.

April 14, 2007 at 10:12 PM  
Blogger Vicki said...

That ingredient list is exactly why I make a lot of my own breads and baked goods from scratch. No mixes for me! That way I have no unpleasant surprises (allergies and such) and things taste as they should. Breads made in a factory taste like manufactured un-real food.

May 2, 2007 at 12:59 PM  

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