Friday, December 19, 2008

Beer Battered Baker

My good friend David Beatty of Livingston, Louisiana is a Renaissance Man. He does many things well and is now into baking. Here is his learned primer on the do's and don'ts of making bread:

I have recently gotten into baking bread, and above are two recent examples of my newly found skill. In an attempt to be healthier, I have been making whole wheat and sourdoughs. All who have seen and tasted my early attempts might find it difficult to describe what they ate as bread. Things have changed.

Bread making is a science. It requires a chemical reaction, and thus an exact recipe. Add the ingredients in the correct amount and bake. Presto, you have bread. Well, not exactly. If you have success at making bread, it may be because you followed the recipe exactly as written. If you do not, the world as you know it may not be the same.

With the chance of sleet and snow tonight and in the morning, the weather in south Louisiana looks very much like the Christmas season, so it must be bread-making time. The first whole-wheat loaf I baked was beautiful, and with butter and jam, was something for which you might even pay good money. That is where my troubles started.

Once I made the first good loaf, I got cocky and began considering myself a real baker. This loaf tastes so good, I thought, why not improve it by adding a few favorite ingredients - some additional this, and a little extra of that. Before long, you have the perfect, new and improved loaf of bread. Well, not exactly.

It could have been the small amount of sourdough starter that I added, or the extra yeast, or that little detail of using instant buttermilk instead of the required milk. About now, some of you are probably thinking that I added too much beer to the mix, or perhaps drank too much of it myself during the process. WRONGAMUNDO, ladies and gents!

I refer to the aforementioned pictures of my culinary creations. The loaf on the right is actually the second loaf I made; the near-perfect loaf on the left included the liberal addition of my favorite beer, not only in the batter, but also in the baker.

Therefore, the moral to the story is this: Be very careful when you alter a proven bread recipe, unless, of course, the altering ingredient happens to be your favorite alcoholic beverage. Then, as you can see, you cannot go wrong.

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