08 June 2009

The Biggest

On my drive from the kitchen to Ned Ludd, the resturant where I was meeting Tricia, her family, Morgan of Dovetail fame/my friend and boss, and folks who own Ned Ludd, and my Buddhist nun friend Chodon, it suddenly occured to me that I needed the lime green instant read thermometer that my dad gave me for the holidays. He asks me all the time if I've used it yet, and I always sheepishly say no. I'm not a thermometer kind of person, I use my senses to bake. I smell when the cookies are almost done, I push the cakes in gently to see if they spring back, and I knock on the bread's crust to listen for hollowness. But this was different, this was no ordinary loaf of bread. How much knocking could I do? How could I be sure that it was done in the inside? And then it just hit me! The instant read thermometer! It saved the day, really. I knew that, as soon as I saw that the temperature inside the giant bread was 210, I thanked my dad for such a perfect tool, the best thermometer out there, and surprisingly the only thing that truly made me feel like this crazy experiment was going to work.
Fifteen pounds of flour, water, salt, yeast, starter and a lot of waiting. A lot of test loaves that couldn't be baked 5 feet long, and one late night the night before the big day sanding the giant peel with Erik while he meticulously carved the handle and cleaned up my not so perfect sanding job. I was so impressed with Erik's work. I wanted a peel that wasn't made out of plywood, and he made me this beautiful handcrafted tool that I will keep for the rest of my life, and curse it every time I move houses, but that's not for a while...It gave me a boost in confidence to have such a beautiful work of art at my side.
So I mixed the dough at Dovetail, drove it over to Ned Ludd, met everyone and started shaping the dough. Simple. Tricia, Chodon, and I stretched it out and then shaped it into a giant batard. On the count of three we moved it like a injured person in the hospital onto the giant peel from the work table. We floured a million towels and covered it up. I then rolled up every towel I had including bath towels and surrounded the loaf with little buffers to mimic a rising basket so the loaf woudn't flatten out. And then we waited. We drank coffee and ate cardamom coffeecake that Tricia made and some blueberry muffins I made. We chatted, I nervously checked on the bread every so often, made sure the towels weren't slipping and the loaf was ok. Everyone kept asking me if it was done rising yet, and even though the hour had past, I felt like it wasn't ready. I figured my intuntion has gotten me this far, why mess with it now.
When it was finally ready we gathered everyone together and lifted the peel, some folks at the handle some holding the main part. The thing was heavy! We slid it into the oven, which at this point I realized was built for tall men and not me at 5 feet 3 inches, and even though I was on my tippy toes I still couldn't quite get a good height for yanking the peel out from under the bread. I counted to three and we all pulled back and tried to slide the peel from under the bread. It worked ok, to be honest. We got the bread off, but not completely in the oven! To my horror we had to push the butt of the bread into the oven so we could close to door! But not bad for the first attempt, no!?

That is most of the drama of it all..The bread baked for about and hour and it was beautiful. We've done it one other time and my friend Jac made some videos of the process. This bread was made at Tastebud thanks to Mark, who owns Tastebud and who I buy delicious pizza from every Saturday, and Katie who let us ambush her while she worked, took us in stride and hopefully had a fun time hanging out with all of us!

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