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The Village Idiot

Stupid Good Bakery

Jack Deatherage, Jr.

(5/2017) The label on the bread bag that once contained my favorite sandwich bread says: "Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Soy Fiber, Corn Syrup, Wheat Gluten. Contains 2% or Less of Each of the Following: Yeast, Defatted Soy Flour, Salt, Dough Conditioners (Mono & Diglycerides and/or Ethoxylated Mono & Diglycerides, Potassium Iodate), Soybean Oil, Carboxymethylcellulose Gum, Guar Gum, Calcium Propionate, Yeast Nutrients (Monocalcium Phosphate, Calcium Sulfate, Ammonium Sulfate). Contains wheat and soybeans."

My ingredients list for sandwich bread is somewhat easier to read: "Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Iron, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Water, Sourdough Culture (which I made using whole wheat and whole rye flours), Sea Salt, Time and Temperature."

Depending on who I'm building a bread for, or as a Muse dictates, it might contain: (singly, or in combinations) pumpkin meat, spinach powder, olive oil, butter, lard, bacon grease, cracklin's (I have to be careful my Jew and Muslim friends don't get any of the pork additives), cheeses, milk, yogurt, sour cream, heavy cream, wine, beer, whiskey, rum, corn, corn meal, steel-cut oats, oatmeal, various flours (spelt, einkorn, corn, Kamut, Turkey Red whole wheat, whole ground rye, millet, semolina), seeds (caraway, fennel, pumpkin and sunflower), olives, nuts, cured meats, cocoa powder, chocolate, cinnamon, cane sugar, diastatic malt powder (sprouted barley, dried and milled) and most anything else edible I can pronounce without cramping my ignorant tongue.

Rarely do I aim for Mom's Jacobean dark loaves of homemade white bread these days. My goals often change from one build to the next when I realize some tweak of the recipe might improve the loaf. Or some bread book plops a new idea before me and I ponder how I can incorporate it into my stock recipe of 1 kilo of flour, 650 grams of water, 20 grams of salt and cup of sourdough culture, or an eighth teaspoon of beer yeast.

(DW asked, "Why did you buy beer yeast? You aren't allowed to make beer because you'll drink it." Duh. As opposed to my sipping wine, mead, rum, gin or whiskey?

Beer yeast, added to a soaker of cracked grains, became part of my secondary stock recipe after watching a BBC documentary on early Victorian bread builders who used the leftover yeast from the breweries of their day. As I haven't taken up beer building so I have leftover yeast to build bread with, I use tiny amounts of beer yeast straight from the packet.)

After nurturing a sourdough culture to life and moving away from commercial yeasts, I'm finding books that explain why I should abandon commercial yeast! It's no surprise that wildling ferments build more flavorful and nutritious breads! Still, very good (good in the sense people enjoy them) bread can be made using commercial strains of yeast if one uses tiny quantities of yeast and allows the dough to ferment for days rather than a few hours!

For some recipes the commercial yeast can't be gotten around. Those recipes are loaded with sugar that require osmotolerant strains of commercial yeast I haven't figured out how to avoid while still producing the desired breads. Not that I care as I don't eat those breads, or much of any others I build. (I've come to that place where I build for others' pleasure while expanding my knowledge base.)

Having attained some small skill in the art of bread building, I've been cranking out breads I've ignored since starting this maddening adventure. Sourdough whites, an American "Italian" bread (both commercially and wildlingly yeasted), several variations of Jewish caraway rye (also made with wild and commercial yeasts), beer and cheese breads, cheese and corn bread, cinnamon swirl bread built with osmotolerant or instant yeasts, sourdough loaves of ancestors of modern wheat and a bourbon banana quick bread (actually a loaf cake) I've built numerous times trialing several bourbons (and branching out to add blueberries and a Shiraz wine) are all sniffed, pulled apart or sliced, examined closely, tasted, pondered and pronounced "this is good bread" at my current bread critic's tattoo shop in this place. (It's easier to walk down the street from here to there than it is to get a loaf to Simona in Russia, though posting pictures of bread on Facebook to torment her is almost as much fun as watching her sample a loaf of some new recipe!)

At some point, Tattoo Don, Pillar of the Community, declared a bread "Stupid good!" Coupling that with ever growing numbers of people who've sampled my breads urging me to open a bakery, and I came up with... (drum roll)... Stupe Good Bakery.

It was immediately pointed out that I'm pushing the "idiot" theme a little too hard. And sticking to that theme, there is no actual bakery. I've peaked as a bread builder. I'm not taking the next step into the realm of government inspectors. Nor am I eager to assume the massive debt required to open a real bakery which this place wouldn't support anyhow. Nope. I've several solid recipes I can build between naps and share when the mood is upon me. That's enough.

I'll continue reading about bread and building methods because I can never know enough. Even though I have no practical use for the specific knowledge, I'm finding the history (Gods! The damage to bread governments have wreaked over the centuries!) and the hybridizing of wheat fascinating. Learning about the ill effects I experience from wheat and how to avoid them, mostly by seeking out heirloom grains and using sourdough ferments to build dough over days, will help me build better breads for Coach Ben and the tatt shop. (The dogs get the bread DW and I don't eat, or the rare experiment that flops badly. They've gone without as I'm getting better at the builds.)

Nope. I've reached a culinary plateau and see the next ridge I'm ready to climb. As soon as I figure out how to assemble the Weber Kettle grill still in the box taking up what little space there is in our front room (Gods, it's a struggle not to pile books on the box!) I'll get back to learning the art of curing meats and smoking them. I'll still have to build breads to accompany the meats, and I'll still toddle down to the tatt shop to have them critiqued. There is no point in building a delicious, succulent corned beef if I don't have an exquisite Jewish rye to compliment it! And I'd think a sourdough ciabatta would go well with a bowl of slow cooked bean soup seasoned with a smoked, spice cured piece of pork belly.

Which brings to mind another business I have been urged to open, the Stupid Good Soup & Sandwich Cafe. Which would require the Mad One returning from Russia and son Jack from Florida to build the soups and sandwiches, and deal with the governments while I build the breads.

Obviously, there ain't gonna be no soup & sandwich shop either. I take some small pleasure from denying good food to the public while sharing it with people I tend to like.

Read other articles by Jack Deatherage, Jr.