Audition Kitchen: 1


Part One: It's All About the Bread

I consider myself a pretty good cook. If you asked me one year ago if I could bake I would have made some face and absolutely sworn that I sucked at baking. The truth is, that beyond the occasional boxed brownie mix or stray banana bread loaf, I just did not bake; So how would I know if I sucked or not at creating baked goods?

Like much of the country, I took to baking bread during the pandemic. Mine was out of necessity; I could not find bread or bagels or pitas or english muffins or even flour anywhere! I like to make sandwiches for lunch and I really craved my midday sandwich as a way to normalize my day and give me culinary comfort. Luckily, a friend with a membership to a restaurant supply store bought 30 pound bags of bread flour and portioned it out into 5 pound mega baggies for friends. I drove to culver city and traded him some homemade Mandarin Orange/Meyer Lemon Marmalade in exchange for the golden high-protein ground grains.

I took the path of least resistance and tried the classic "No-Knead Bread" recipe Mark Bittman popularized years ago. The results in my big Le Crueset dutch oven were decent, but round and pretty flat, in other words, not great for making sandwiches. I tried the same recipe but in a modified loaf pan. Right shape, but really dense and crumbly. I tried over a dozen modifications and none resulted in a "good" sandwich bread.

Then I got the Holy Grail of bread loaf pans: LoafNest.

(cue the sound of Angels "Ahhhhhhh!!!!!!")

I now had a great recipe and a great pan and great bread for sandwiches.

And I like the ritual of baking bread so much, I did/do it almost every day. No, I do not eat THAT many sandwiches to justify such baking output; so I started lockdown by trading fresh loaves for toilet paper and fresh fruit, and now I give my extra loaves to people experiencing homelessness in the local park and friends and neighbors experiencing joblessness.

So, the FifVANella challenge is: How to bake bread in a van without an oven?