I discovered TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) talks a week or so ago after reading Virginia Heffernan's article in the New York Times Magazine, "Confessions of a TED addict."
Karen Armstrong, Jeff Bezos, Jared Diamond, Peter Gabriel, Jane Goodall, Stephen Hawking, Nellie McKay, Isaac Mizrahi, and Rick Warren have all given TED talks. Sounds interesting, right?
So I ambled over to the TED site, searched for an interesting talk among the hundreds available, and found one by Peter Reinhart, baker and author of several books, including Brother Juniper's Bread Book. This is one of my favorite bread books because, as its subtitle indicates (Slow Rise as Method and Metaphor), it is more than just a collection of recipes, it is also a meditation on bread-baking.
Reinhart explains in his lecture that bread-baking involves no fewer than three transformations. The first one occurs when we harvest living seeds; the seeds become dead things, and we grind them into flour. The second occurs when you make the dough. Yeast re-animates the flour, in a way, and the dough becomes a living thing that dies once again when you put it into the oven. The third transformation occurs when we eat the bread, and it becomes once again part of a living thing.
So Jesus was spot-on in using bread as a metaphor when he said, "I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger...the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world."
I was inspired to make Brother Juniper's signature bread, Struan. Struan is a Scottish bread made on the eve of the feast of St. Michael, the guardian of the harvest. Traditionally, it is made with all of the grains harvested during the year. Brother Juniper's is made from wheat, corn, oats, brown rice, and wheat bran; moistened with buttermilk and sweetened with brown sugar and honey. The dough is heavy and difficult to knead, but the result is delicious!
Here is a recipe for Struan, based on Brother Juniper's recipe, although the one I followed doesn't call for an initial soaking of the ingredients. And here are two loaves that are winging their way to two lucky daughters even as I write this: