The Staff of Life

I adore bread and always have. During WWII, (whoops, my generation is showing), I was taken to Central Park where Quonset huts were set up and soldiers handed out hunks of coarse, dark bread. I thought it was terrific  but my mother was not thrilled with my passion for the heavy stuff. To this day, I prefer bread with a very chewy crust and distinctive taste.

There is evidence of starch residue on rocks used from pounding plants as far as 30,000 years ago. Possibly the extracted starch of plant roots was spread on a flat rock, placed over a fire and cooked into very early flat bread.

Pita

Indian chappatis

By the Neolithic period, grains figured prominently in bread making. Dough sitting around probably picked up yeast spores from the air and, by doing so, rose before baking. In the ancient world, people used foam skimmed from beer in making bread or saved a piece of dough from the previous day as a “starter”, the way contemporary bakers of sourdough do.

Apparently, bread in some form exists in every culture, at least, I haven’t found an example of a breadless group.

These are a few bread-related phrases; can you come up with others?

  • The greatest thing since sliced bread
  • Out of bread (as in broke)
  • Man does not live by bread alone
  • Bread and circuses
  • A bread- and- butter note ( thank you letter now totally out of fashion)
  • Know what side your bread is buttered on

Recently I volunteered to bring dessert for a group dinner and made bread pudding according to a recipe given to me by my friend, Peggy, a terrific cook. It was an appropriate end to the meal, especially with the accompanying whiskey sauce poured over it. We will, however, gloss over the amount of butter and sugar the recipe includes.

Bread Pudding right out of the oven

Bread Pudding courtesy of Peggy T.

Loaf French bread preferably not too fresh

1 quart 1% milk (if you use 2% that’s OK)

3 eggs

2 c sugar

2 T vanilla

1 tsp cinnamon

1 c raisins

3 T butter

Break up bread and put in large bowl. Pour milk over it and let it sit one hour or more.

In another bowl, mix eggs with sugar, vanilla and cinnamon. Add that to the bread and mix mixture and stir well to combine. Add raisins.

Put the butter in a 9×13 Pyrex pan (in my house we call this a “lasagna” pan). Heat oven to 375º and melt the butter in the oven, watching to see it doesn’t start to brown. Remove pan with butter being sure butter coats bottom all over and pour in the mixture. Bake at 375 for an hour (or a little more or less. Mine was done in forty- five minutes.) Test with a thin knife which should come out clean when it’s done.

 

Whiskey Sauce for Bread Pudding

¼ cup bourbon plus more to taste

1 stick butter

1 c sugar

1 egg

In medium saucepan over low heat, combine butter, sugar and bourbon and cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves.

Beat the egg and gradually add it to the mixture (still over low heat), stirring. Add more bourbon to taste.  Cool slightly before serving.

Eat it and run around the nearest park six or seven times. No, just eat it and let the flavors do the running around in your mouth.

 

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