Home-made bread is the best. Everything about it appeals to me. I love the taste of it, the smell of it, the way the butter melts on it when it’s still warm. And it really is OK that it goes stale the next day. That’s what bread’s meant to do.
The problem is that I never succeeded in making a decent loaf of bread. Despite my best efforts my bread always ended up heavy, dense and impossible to slice.
All that changed, last year, when I chanced upon a tatty little book in a charity shop hailed by the Washington Post as, ‘The bible for bread baking.’ The Tassajara Bread Book opened my eyes to what a sacred thing bread is. Yes, really. The guy who wrote it back in 1970 (Ed Brown) was the chief priest at the Zen Centre, San Francisco. It is a cookery book that exudes all the wisdom of his calling. Very chilled, philosophical and humble.
Listen to this, Ed says, ‘I am not a great baker, and I do not promise that you will become a superbaker by using this book. That is not the point. I do not bake to be great. I bake because it is wholesome. I feel renewed, and I am renewing the world, my friends and neighbours. Most of us bake in this way.’
Well, until I had Ed’s book, I didn’t!! I baked, as I do most things, in a mad, chaotic, messy, stressed sort of way. But, as I said, all that’s changed. No more rushing and taking short cuts for me. I’m prepared for the fact that renewing the world with my bread is going to take time. And Tassajara bread is not for the faint hearted! All the kneading, rising, punching and shaping…takes hours and hours. But is it worth it? Categorically yes. Tassajara bread tastes amazing. It looks amazing. It’s much lighter and …well loaf like, than anything I’ve baked before. The kids have christened it ‘Love Bread,’ cause Ed does bang on a lot about love. Again I quote, ‘Love is not only the most important ingredient:
it is the only ingredient which really matters.’
Having made the bread, I see where he’s coming from. You have to love people an awful lot to go to all that bother for them. The nice thing is that when you do, it really is worth it.