eye of the bread

In a poorly lit temple museum in Japan, there’s a thousand-year-old sculpture in unpainted wood of a monk caught at the moment of enlightenment, his face splitting open like a cicada’s shell to reveal the monk beneath. This reminded me of that. In the first ten minutes after it goes into the oven, the dough experiences a burst of expansion before the heat kills it — or, if you like, transforms it into its next, immobile state. Many bakers, disliking irregularity, cut slashes into the dough so it will split where they want, and sometimes I do this too, but most of the time I prefer to be surprised by what opens and what stays closed.

19 Replies to “Split”

  1. a powerful comparison with the split bread and the monk’s face. and i like the alternate you provide to the heat killing: “transforms it into its next, immobile state.”

    1. In fact it did turn out really well, if I do say so myself. Almost every batch of bread I make now is rye, because I love how it tastes when it’s fresh out of the oven.

  2. Yes, warm rye bread is one of the lost pleasures!

    I don’t think this piece is any the worse for not being in lines. It’s a perfect piece, not a word out of place. (And the image is great!)

  3. dave,
    I picked up a new bread book $7.at ollie’s/altoona which features more rye than most. The focus is levain-raised breads (frenchy for sourdough). I’ll share it with you sometime if i ever see you again.

    1. You drove to Altoona and didn’t stop by to see me? Whose fault is that?

      I love sourdough but I’m not sure I want to stretch out the bread-making process that much. It’s tempting, though.

    1. That’s cool. Doesn’t matter to me how a given piece of writing is categorized, actually.

      Thanks for commenting. It’s nice to know you’re still stopping around.

  4. Interesting – I had just found a recipe book on sourdough baking last night in my collection (don’t remember buying it or ever seeing it before) about a young man and a friend who spent a year in the back-country of Canada. It’s about rustic baking – lotsa recipes – some rye. Surprise. Or maybe our instincts know before we do that this will be a rough winter and we’d better get our sourdough going soon?
    hugs from PA (south of ya)

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