Well, he married me, didn't he?
He has done some other clever things too ;)
Including making bread.
Now let me explain... we are not foodies, oh nooo!.. although in fact I have been "making bread" for the family for about fifteen years; only I use a bread-maker which is kinda cheating, and not really like making your own bread at all. So, while I do "make my own bread", please note the use of self-mocking inverted commas. Well, you see; Miss Frugality, in her zeal for DIY, went and bought a breadmaker, even though it was expensive and she is allergic to kitchens. Fortunately it turned out to be so easy even the worst cook in the world could cope, and the cost per use is probably down into the micro-cents by now. So, the kiddies grew up on that deliciously chewy, crusty, chocka-with-seeds stuff it produced and we quickly discovered we just could never go back to that crap masquerading laughably as "bread" sold in the supermarket, ever again... so the homemade bread habit has continued to this day. Chuck in the breadmix, water, yeast, press a few buttons, a few hours later, hey presto, a yummy loaf awaits. Simple as that. Easy peasy. And domestic contentment ensues.
But recently my husband read a book "52 Loaves" by William Alexander; which outlined the author's grail-like quest to make bread the traditional way, truly from scratch. Very entertaining read, by the way.
My husband, not a man easily impressed, was impressed. He was like, "Challenge Accepted!!"
Yes, in case you're wondering, my husband is an inquisitive as well as a competitive man. On those personality thingie tests, he always comes out as a lion; an A-type; a born-leader; a go-getting, never-admit-defeat, super-intelligent dynamo of doing-ness; or whatever.
Anyhow, he found himself compelled to make bread, too. The hard way. And like just about anything my husband attempts, he succeeded.
He started out by developing his own starter.
You begin with blueberries... yes, really. Why? Well, blueberries are one of the few substances which are still sold today with their protective layer of wild yeast intact. That white, slightly powdery substance coating the surface of blueberries?? well, that is an atmospheric fungus, a naturally occurring thing, that has been used for centuries by our ancestors to grow the leavening agent for bread. Nowadays, most of us are lazy and use either dried yeast or a pre-made starter developed by somebody else, but fortunately for the apocalypse-minded amongst us: the materials are still at hand for those who wish to make use of ancient techniques and go the pure unassisted route towards making their own bread. Can you make your own yeast? why yes you can!
It also occurs on other fruits and veggies, you sometimes see it on grapes and apples here but most of the time it gets polished off before they reach the grocer.
Craig soaked a punnet of blueberries in pure (chloride and fluoride free) water to harvest, or in old terms; "catch" the yeast. Then he combined this "live" water with an equal quantity of flour, and left it to develop. After a few days he had a thick bubbly paste with a pleasantly fertile, brewery-like aroma.
This is the levain, and it lives in our fridge. In colder climates people keep it in a warm spot on the window sill, but we are in a very very hot climate so it would get bloated and whiffy in no time at all on our windowsill! You need to feed and tend to it every few days to keep it in good shape.
As you can imagine, in ancient times the levain was like gold in a family; it was their ticket to the staff of life and it was essential for it to be kept well maintained. The health of a family's levain was literally the key to the health of the family!
Obviously we are a very fortunate first world family whose survival is not dependent on the survival of our levain; but after all the effort that went into producing this stuff you can be sure Craig is taking blinkin' good care of it!
He baked the bread on pizza stones. Fortunately we've had these already a Christmas gift one year I think.
Incidentally I was allotted about one nanosecond in which to take this photograph... something to do with "YOU'RE LETTING ALL THE HOT AIR OUT!"... or something or other...
and then ... bread.
As they say in the ad biz; Un Serving Suggestion...
And was it tres delish?