At Sunday’s final bread class, I was a little slow-moving after Saturday night’s festivities and the cause of last week’s cupcake extravaganza. We focused on whole-grain breads: semolina, Swiss rye, seeded rye and pumpernickel, and though I was a little, um, dehydrated, I think I did all right, surprising myself by getting all four doughs together before noon. It was at this point that I realized I might just have achieved my goal in this class — which was not, by the way, to effectively knead bread with a margarita headache — but to get comfortable enough with the process that I could dive into recipes confidently and know instinctively what to do if things get off-course (or underslept). I’m almost there, and not a moment too soon, because the instructor dug up a recipe for Russian Black Bread for me with about 20 ingredients and it’s calling to me. No rest for the weary, or at least certifiably insane, I suppose.
Sometime over the last couple years — arguably, just as this carbohydrate castoff moment has crossed the American table, or more likely in subversive rebellion of it — I’ve become obsessed with baking bread. There’s something so elemental, primitive about setting bacteria loose in milled grains to feast! ferment! to their unicellular heart’s content, guiding it along with humidity and simple sugars and just when things can’t get any better for the little guys — Wohoo! It’s warm in here! — well, we off them so they’ll taste better for us. Hey, I said primitive, right?