It happened again last month. My heart is broken, I’ve lost my love and now I have to find a replacement. I’ve been in this position before; the “good ones” are so hard to find. And even when I do find one, the relationship never seems to last.
I will admit that my tastes have evolved over time. It used to be that simple and refined… and white, very white… was my preference.
Actually, it was all I knew. Back then, it was all white. But as I matured, my horizons expanded, and I came to prefer more complexity and a darker coloration. I rarely go with white now—only for rare occasions that insist on it. I’ve learned the beauty of going brown!
I’m talking, of course, about bread. Good bread. Great bread!
I’ve been a “bread man” all my life. It even factors into my favorite tipple. After all, beer is liquid bread.
One can even say it’s patriotic. After all, what do you think those “amber waves of grain” get turned into? (Certainly not any of the indignities suffered by corn, I can tell you that!)
As I wrote in the intro, it started for most of us with simple white bread made from refined flour.
The stuff that is great for rolling up into little bread BBs. The stuff that comes in the 100-slice, 3-foot loaf for only 25 cents.
(Yes, I do know that price has a Bushian out of touchness—I actually do buy my own bread. The low price just makes the joke work better, so sue me. And the stuff is still really cheap!)
As a kid, it was the rolls that called to me from the table. Oh, sure, the potatoes and meat also called out (the veggies kept their mouths shut), but bread drowned out their voices. I have rarely encountered a bread I don’t like!
My mom made some outstanding breads over the years. She often made this wonderful rye bread that was dense and sweet, almost cake-like. It made some of the best toast ever, and I’m big on toast!
One time someone gave her some “pizza flour” and she made bread that tasted just like a pizza crust (especially when toasted).
It was probably my mom’s breads that planted the seed that not all bread is that spun white foam. My college nutrition teacher sealed the deal (and put me off white sugar and red meat for years).
I’ve been eating “twigs and stones” bread as long as I can remember. About the only place I still eat white bread is hot dog or hamburger buns.
Oh, and Olive Garden bread sticks… love those!
Anyway, so what happened that broke my heart is that I found—for the second time—a really good non-mainstream bread that was made from natural ingredients and tasted great toasted. (Well, I thought it was non-mainstream, and I guess it is (or was), but in researching for this article I find that it was a spin-off of Hostess Products!)
But let’s first go back a few years to one of the best commercial breads I ever found! It was made by the Natural Ovens bakery in Manitowoc, WI. They made a 12-Grain Herb bread that was unworldly good. Never had anything like it (had dill seeds, it did!). They also made a Russian Rye that brought tears to my eyes; it reminded me of my mom’s rye bread.
That Russian Rye… it was really hard not to spend the entire morning just making and eating toast. (And dense! If someone flung a slice at you, you would want to duck!) My standard breakfast for years now consists of two pieces of toast, so toast is really important to me!
It was hard to find the bread, and there would usually be only one or two lonely loaves sitting next to 3,729 loaves of that cheap white crap. One learned to shop on the days the bread man came. And then the day came when it was no longer to be found. (They tried to fool me once by moving it from the bread aisle to the health food sub-aisle, but I found it.)
And I see that Natural Ovens doesn’t even make those varieties anymore. Sad. I mourned a long time. Pepperidge Farm® and Sara Lee® both make a natural ingredient bread, but I haven’t been overwhelmed by the flavor of any of their products. My usual default when I can’t find anything better is the Brownberry® 12-Grain or Oatmeal varieties.
Not long ago I found a “new” bread that I really liked: Nature’s Pride. The right ingredients, great flavor and it made good toast. I’ve been enjoying the 12-Grain and the Oatmeal for many months.
Only to be deserted again (Hostess closed them due to the BCTGM strike).
Why does everything I love go away??
Loving bread, you might wonder if I’m also goofy for cookies and/or cake.
Oh, my, yes! (And also pasta.)
As usual, though, my tastes are off the main radar beam. I don’t care for those store-bought, airy, moist cakes with the airy, whipped frosting. I’ll choke a piece down at an office party just to be nice, but I don’t enjoy it. I especially don’t like that frosting. (But then I don’t like whipped cream or cream fillings or custards, which pretty much puts the entire Hostess product line off my menu (especially now!). I did used to eat their Honeybuns, once.)
No, with cake I want it a little dried out and of good honest density. A proper cake. I really like tort as long as it isn’t tarted up. The St. Paul Bar & Grill used to have a chocolate turtle tort to die for. Ultra dense (uranium-levels of density) double chocolate tort served with warm caramel poured over it. A tiny slice of heaven on a plate (and priced reasonably).
As for frosting, I like those sugar frostings that turn hard after a week or so. They’re mostly based on confectioner sugar, some milk and a bit of butter. There’s a version you can do with brown sugar (speaking of going brown). I wrote about that last year.
My inability to track the mainstream manifests again with cookies. The Universal Favorite, of course, is the Chocolate Chip. The Oatmeal-Raisin is a very close Brando, but the O.R. is pretty clearly Avis to the C.C.’s Hertz. (Or are the references too dated for anyone to get? Lord knows I am!)
Now, I have nothing against the popular Chocolate Chip, and I’m quite a fan of its sidekick, Oatmeal-Raisin. But when I’m building my team plate, I tend to pick the Gingers and their sisters, the Molasses. (And when those two team up, Holy Cannoli, Bat-beings, that’s what I’m talkin’ about!)
A fresh Ginger-Molasses with a proper icing… that’s number one, my friends! The others can sit on the bench all season for all I care!