Play Pretend: Bread Baking

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To say that I live in a bakery is kind of an understatement. Even though the operations of Aero have gone from our home, we still churn out sourdough loaves, baguettes, cookies, scones and teacakes weekly – if only for ourselves, friends, and family. I have easily baked a thousand loaves in the last three hundred and sixty five days. On top of bread and pastries, discarded starter has gone into pancakes and breakfast items. Even now, as I sit and type this post, I am getting up every thirty minutes to do bread turns. Mike stands behind me making flour tortillas from scratch and I can hear the squeaking of our tortilla press. He’s even wearing a linen baker’s apron! He has gone down a different path, experimenting with ramens, noodles, and tortillas. All things that I can get behind.

I may have let go of the bakery but the bakery never let go of me.

Far from getting tired of our kitchen floors being covered in flour dust, what we have as a unit (roommate included) is an equal appreciation of jam, butter, and avocado toast, which we connect over cups of coffee in the mornings. We share the justification of munching on teacakes by going on group runs. Japanese ramen and Mexican dishes run rampant on our weekly menus.

There was a time when we were the only ones dishing out gluten products from scratch. But during these troubling months, I’ve seen more and more people turn to bread baking and I can’t help but rejoice on the inside. Visiting the grocery shelves these last few months has shown me that people are hanging onto bread flour and active yeast lately. Hopeful me is standing by the sidelines with jubilee cheering on a healthier reformation around carbohydrates. For those who haven’t jumped on the bandwagon, here’s a bit of pretend. Or for those thinking of starting, a worthy wish list to consider.

+ A mill to get the freshest quality flour.

+ A Cast Iron Combo Cooker that’s affordable but also quality stuff.

+ A reliable rolling pin to ease the process (if you know, you know).

+ A linen apron, so that you can do turns right before work.

+ A Kitchen Aid Mixer, a.k.a. a baker’s best friend.

+ A tough bread knife that can cut day old sourdough (arguably the best kind).

+ A decent cutting board.

+ A bread box, for those who don’t freeze their bread (we do).

+ A marble pastry slab to keep dough cool while rolling.

And of course, jam, decent butter, and market avocados.

Any questions regarding bread baking, I’d love to help. Say hi on my Instagram.

Travel: Craftsman and Wolves

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It was only a week ago that we were able to get away for a quick visit to Northern California. We were recommended Craftsman and Wolves on Valencia Street by a fellow baker (actually, a more OFFICIAL baker who actually knows the stuff of yeast and flour), rather last minute, but with extremely high remarks. The weekend was meant to be spent with a group of undergraduate friends that we rarely get to see anymore, for as life would have it, we have all grown into adults with jobs that took us to far and farther off places. However, Mike and I squeezed in a morning to our own perusing, and I convinced him to seek out delicious bread loaves, since you know, I have been obsessed with the stuff. So upon our friend’s suggestion, we decided to swing by Craftsman and Wolves, and it turns out, I liked the place way more than the Tartine down the street. Which says a lot, since I am using Tartine’s book to learn how to bake my own delicious loaves. Call me an inexperienced, unknowledgable, unclassy homebaker, but honestly, you like what you like. And this stuff was pretty freaking good.

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I know I have my biases towards environments, with the decor of a place usually selling me as soon as I’ve stepped my foot in the door. It just can’t be helped. Obviously, there’s so much to love about this place. From the blue teacups laying strewn across recently deserted counters, to the light fixtures, the gray walls, the white brick, and most importantly, the display of delectable sweets.

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However, don’t let that bias fool you into thinking that this is just another instragrammable cafe. Rather, it holds a collection of delicious pastries that would be enough to make me forgive the cafe if it were located in the back alleyway of a city street in some alternate universe.

We perused the pastries, and as we pointed to a delicious-looking muffin, one of the staff came over to load a box full of them! “Better nab one before they’re gone,” he said with a mischievous grin. I kept looking at the display as we waited our turn in line, fearing that we were not going to get a taste of whatever it was that everyone seemed to want. The name of the muffin was The Rebel Within, and little did I know that it was the main attraction of the place, and typically sells out every weekend. Upon ordering, we thought we were getting what looked like a muffin, with green onions and sausage, but slicing into the little devil taught us what it meant to be a rebel. Inside was a perfectly soft-boiled egg, that oozed its yolky center out onto the white plate. I was surprised that the muffin was able to cage something that seemingly has been waiting to burst open for it’s moment to shine. To be honest, the muffin didn’t seem at all dry like other muffins, so maybe the rebel was the muffin itself rather than the egg after all. Instead, it was more like a savory slice of cake, without the dose of sugar that would typically end in a headache. It was glorious.

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We also ordered a smoked ham croissant, with swiss and whole grain mustard. I am going to wholeheartedly admit that the edible flowers sprinkled on top is what initially attracted me to this thing. Full disclosure, the edible flowers did not taste that much, but the croissant was delicious. Flaky and crispy croissants are what I love best! This one had a light filling that did not leave you feeling completely heavy, nor with full-on mustard breath. Which was perfect, because we were about to head over to Ritual Coffee down the street to get our coffee breath on!

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But before we left, I felt a tug in my stomach(?) that told me to get back to that counter and order one more thing. I saw when we had ordered a loaf of Japanese milk bread, with bunches of them wrapped in tissue paper, as if saying, “Please, take us back on the plane with you!” With my recent bread baking craze, I figured, we were already there, so “Why not?” I snagged a loaf for myself, to see what exactly Japanese milk bread tasted like, and if it was something I would be interested in learning. When we got back to my sister’s apartment that night, she informed me that Japanese milk bread was everywhere in Japan and she loved eating it there. In other words, she approved of my purchase.

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Verdict? The minute we landed that Monday morning, we took time to eat a slice of the Craftsman and Wolves milk bread. It looks and feels like a typical loaf you would find wrapped in plastic in the bread aisle but tastes like a brioche, without too much dryness. Granted, my bread-tasting experience is completely limited, but all I know is that it tasted great toaster with a slab of Peanut Butter melting on top.

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Overall, I would highly recommend experiencing CAW for anyone visiting San Francisco. I know it’s very tempting to get only the mind-blowing Rebel Within (for the gram), but it wouldn’t hurt to order some of the other pastries as well, because I am sure that they are all very, very good!