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January 17, 2015
A Note from the Farmer's Wife
Something about cold, grey days inspire thoughts of warm, comfort foods. For me, I am inspired to bake bread. Bombarded with health claims about coconut flour, gluten-free this and paleo that, one can feel at a loss about how comfort foods, especially bread, fit in a healthy lifestyle. Bread takes a bad rap these days. Everyone is afraid of it. But who doesn’t love the smell of home-baked bread? Slicing the “heel” while the loaf is still piping hot and watching the butter quickly melt into its surface is sure to arouse the palate of any hard core foodie, no matter how stringent their dietary guidelines. Bread is a beautiful thing, and I would hate to leave this earth regretting that I had not indulged that craving more. What could be better than a steaming bowl of winter vegetable soup and a fresh loaf of bread for “simple supper?”
Even so, not all bread is “bread.” Eat hand-made artisan sourdough bread and you will realize how the sliced stuff in plastic bags at the grocery store barely qualifies as food, much less as “bread.” I have long followed the standard American method of baking bread using quick rise yeast, in the oven and out from start to finish in under 4 hours. I used to think bread like that was delicious. Until I experienced bread made by the hand of our Austrian-born farm crew manager. Using a true sour dough, void of commercial yeast, and proofed over several days this bread deeply satisfies both palate and belly. Moist, rich in a diversity of flavor and texture bread like this inspired me to expand my knowledge of traditional baking.
That is when I decided to build an outdoor masonry oven. Made with stone, brick, mud plasters or a combination, these ovens vary widely in size and appearance. They inspire art. Although I have decided to build this oven, the only steps I have taken is to acquire some books on the subject (note my favorite volume pictured above). I envision a sweet brick oven capable of handling six or more loaves, or a few pizzas, set up near our pack area. Once fired up, an all day affair from pizzas, to roast chickens, to round loaves of sour dough can become an educational food get-together for CSA members, friends and family. The building of the beast might become a community effort and learning experience. Who wants to come over and help me play in the mud for a day? I am convinced that bread made with wholesome ingredients, and baked in an earthen oven, and then shared with a community of like-minded people brings health to the eater and joy to the spirit.