Bake Sale for Japan

Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world. — Howard Zinn

When: Saturday, April 2, 2011; 10 a.m. – 2 p. m.

Where: Dozens of locations in the Bay Area and nationwide. I will bake for the San Jose event at Roy’s Station (197 Jackson Street).

Who: Professional and amateur bakers, cooks, artists, artisans, and musicians coming together around food to make something BIG happen.

How: Want to help? We’ll need bakers, artists, volunteers, and lots and lots of customers. If you live in the South Bay, please send offers of help to Paige Bayer at . If you live somewhere else, check out the national event page to learn more about a bake sale in your area.

Why: So we can donate BIG BUCKS to Peace Winds Japan.

Rewena Paraoa

Well, I’m a day (or two) late and a stencil short, but my Rewena Paroa, a traditional Maori bread made with a fermented potato starter — and Lien’s choice for the Bread Baking Babes this month — is finally out of the oven.

Being a New Zealand bread, the decoration should depict a silver leaf fern, and I tried, I really tried, to craft one even half as lovely as Lien’s intricate example. My scissors had other ideas, though, and it was just not happening, so I resorted to the garden. I have no ferns, so I made do with a vine I’m embarrassed to say I don’t even know the name of. Flattened between the pages of a heavy book for a couple of hours, it served as a decent stencil, if you forget that it’s supposed to be a fern.

This is a really wonderful loaf, with the softness and red-golden color typical of potato-enriched breads. My dough seemed a bit sluggish so I gave it a longer bulk fermentation and one more fold than the recipe called for, and it paid off with a beautiful open crumb.

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Happy Birthday, Dear Babes

This is not a cocodrillo.

There is a group I’m honored to be a part of, and it calls itself the Bread Baking Babes. We are three years old today, and we are celebrating by revisiting our favorites from the past 36 months of baking — delicious, adventurous, sometimes frustrating, often challenging, occasionally comical, and always tons of fun.

Rather than all baking the same thing, as is our usual habit, we decided to each select a bread from the Babes’ archives. Because I haven’t been a Babe for the whole three years, I decided to make my bread one of the ones I had missed. And not just any bread I had missed, but possibly the most confounding — and ultimately perhaps the most satisfying for those who managed to master it —  bread the Babes have ever baked: the infamous Cocodrillo.

Now I know what you’re thinking: the bread in that photo does not look like any crocodile I ever saw. Why no, it doesn’t. But no matter, I can give you a mental image of the disaster that was my cocodrillo with one seasonally-appropriate word: snowshoes. And that’s really just enough said about that. Except to express my renewed appreciation for all the Babes and Buddies who tamed that obstreperous beast.

Since I couldn’t bear to arrive at this party empty-handed, I have another offering: the very first Babe bread, and one that got rave reviews down the line: Royal Crown Tortano. Let me add my own nutshell review: like the Babes themselves, this is one spectacular bread. Happy Birthday, dear Babes!

And now, we hope everyone will join in the festivities. It couldn’t be easier: just select your own favorite from the BBB’s archives, bake, post, and send your info to Tanna (My Kitchen in Half Cups) by February 28. I can’t wait to see what everyone chooses!

Three Years of Babes in Breadland

So. The Bread Baking Babes, those gorgeous, cheeky, and oh-so-fearless oven addicts, are three years old this month. We are celebrating three years of loaves, and more than a few laughs, by taking a look back at all the breads that have delighted, challenged, exasperated, terrified, and excited us.

The breads of 2008:

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Golden Corn Rolls

Corn has a bad reputation lately. As a major component of America’s industrial food system, corn represents cropland abuse, genetic modification, cattle sickened on a grain diet, children sickened on a corn-fed-beef-burger and high-fructose-corn-syrup diet, a wacky government subsidy system. All too true.

But of course the blame for these ills lies with the humans that produce and consume big-business corn (and that would be most of us, by the way; if you ever eat prepared food, chances are there’s corn in there somewhere). Blaming corn is like blaming water for acid rain.

As a grain and a vegetable in and of itself, unrefined, unengineered, and responsibly grown, corn is pretty upstanding. Sure, you’d be in trouble if it were all you ate. But it’s a decent source of fiber, B vitamins, and vitamin C. Native American cultures were and are sustained by it. My childhood summers would not have been the same without it. Neither would chili and guacamole.

So, in defense and celebration of this innocent, nutritious, and tasty food that is the theme of this month’s BreadBakingDay (hosted by Heather and Zorra), I wanted to bake something that not only comprised corn but announced loudly, I’m corn. You got a problem with that? Bite me!

Would you put a basket of golden corn ears on your breakfast table, warm and ready for a drizzle of honey? (Many thanks to my friend Elra for this jar of wonderful local wildflower honey.)

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Hildegard’s Spelt Bread

For this month’s Bread Baking Babes assignment, Astrid, our queen of spelt, chose a whole grain bread based on the writings of Hildegard of Bingen, 12th-century theologian, writer, healer, nutritionist, and, according to Astrid, the Middle Ages’ own spelt queen. According to Saint Hildegard, “Spelt creates healthy body, good blood and a happy outlook on life.” We can’t ask for much more than that, now, can we?

(Well, I might ask for one more thing: Astrid mentioned that Hildegard was a proponent of the healing power of jewelry. This is very good news! I am going to investigate this further and see if I can get my health insurance to pay for a pearl ring, or maybe an opal necklace.)

But back to the spelt bread. I really love the flavor of spelt; it is nuttier and less bitter than whole wheat. Because this is a 100% whole-grain bread (60% whole spelt flour and 40% spelt flakes), and because its gluten is not as strong as that of its cousin, wheat, this is a dense bread. However, it is moist and flavorful, and a perfect accompaniment for winter soup.

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