Our bookcenter was closed yesterday to give the sisters a community day and Juan a day off. I took advantage of the opportunity to do two of my favorite things: reading and cooking. In this particular case, baking. And what was I reading about? Baking.
I thoroughly enjoyed William Alexander's book detailing not only his personal "pursuit of a perfect crust" but the history of bread, the processes involved, the tools of the trade, the unexpected aspects of flour production (Wait 'til the TSA finds out that flour dust is highly explosive!) and how the wrong kind of milling process may have decimated the South in the early twentieth century. I especially enjoyed Alexander's relating of how he ended up in a 7th century Norman monastery, teaching the monks (in French!) how to bake artisan bread--when he was still figuring that out himself. Oh, and how he grew wheat in his family garden, and ground it (some of it, anyway) with an Indian grinding stone. That part made me laugh out loud. (Now I want to read about his gardening exploits!)
As for me, I'm not ready to tackle bread (although Alexander really made it tempting). And I'm not above using the community's donated bread machine. In fact, that is exactly what I used to prepare the dough for two projects this weekend, both of which took advantage of the ingredients we received as Christmas gifts. I made a pear-custard dessert (two of them, actually, one prettier than the other, but that's the one that got eaten immediately) and a braided, fruit-filled roll. Which was supposed to come out raised and puffy.
Maybe next time.