Bread’s Greatest Hits

My grandmother was a straight-up, bona fide, character.Her name was Geraldine.  She looked (and acted) like an Old Testament prophetess.  She was very tall, thin, and wore her iron-gray, waist length hair in a very tight bun during the day and in a long, ropey braid when she went to bed.

Granny was tough and blunt.  She had plenty of rules and expected everyone to fall in line.  My dad always said his mother was a “test pilot at the broom factory”.

You know, she actually did bear a resemblance to Margeret Hamilton…

She married my grandfather in October of 1929.  Somehow, she fed and clothed her growing family during the greatest economic crisis this country has ever known.

She was enormously frugal and wasted nothing.  She made her own intense, delicious grape juice.  She canned, pickled and repurposed.  She still managed to produce dessert almost every night.One of my favorites was a jello-based dish.  She used the black walnuts that grew in her yard.  Dad loves them, but I find them as bitter and dark as a Dickens spinster.  In this recipe, I subbed in pecans.

Granny’s black cherry dessertjello-dessert

1-6 ounce box black cherry jello

3 cups boiling water

1 cup ice

14 ounces cream cheese

1 ½ cups large pecan pieces, toasted

Prepare your cream cheese: cut into ½-inch cubes using unflavored dental floss.  Place in refrigerator to get very cold. 

In a large bowl, mix jello, water, and ice.  Stir in pecans.  When the jello’s room temp, fold in cream cheese, keeping individual cubes intact.  Pour into 9X13 dish, refrigerate, and allow to set completely (around 4 hours).

Serves 8-10.

I think Granny went to Sunday school with General Washington.  My father’s middle name is George.

Granny also made her own potato bread.  When we visited, she would cut thick slices, toast them, and slather on butter and/or jelly.  It made the best gosh-darn toast you ever tasted.

A couple weeks ago I tried a new bread from La Farm, in Cary.  It’s Carolina Gold rice sourdough. rice-bread-1It’s very moist and tasty.  But the best part is, it makes the best toast since I sat at Granny’s table and ate my weight in hers.  I discovered it October 10th, and am on my second loaf, with plans to get more next week.  That doesn’t sound remarkable until you know that the loaves are huge, and I’ve been the only one eating it.

And this brings me to my main point.

Life is too short to eat dreadful, sub-par bread.  I’m talking about you, Wonder and Sunbeam. We live in an area rich with great bakeries, so there’s no excuse.

Here are a few of my favorites and where to get them, plus a tip to make frozen and day-old bread bakery fresh all over again.

Lots of places sell baguettes, but Earth Fare sells crusty-on-the-outside with pillow-y soft interiors for 98 cents—every day.

Costco bakes square rolls that are kind of like ciabatta.  Sandwiches on them are delicious, but they’re awesome just eaten with cold salted butter.

The Co-op has a seven-grain that is really delicious.  It makes a grilled cheese that even my white-bread-loving Petey enjoys.bakeriesNinth St bakery has quite a few lovely loaves.  A couple of my favorites are Sourdough French and sunflower.  They also have a whole grain that’s quite good.

Whole Foods, Scratch and Loaf all have diverse and delicious bread.

I leave you with a couple carb hints.

When you freeze bread, it stops the clock on staleness and mold.  If it’s toast you’re after, just toss slices, still frozen, into the toaster.  You may have to turn it up to get enough color for your taste.

If it’s rolls or loaves, leave frozen until oven heats to 350.  When it’s at temp, run each piece under water and place directly on the rack.  Then throw about ¼ cup water into the oven as well (the steam keeps the crust crispy and the insides cloud-like soft).  Bake for 13 minutes then take it out and place on cooling rack so it doesn’t get a soggy bottom (soggy bottoms are the worst).

Good as new—I promise.  There are so many things in life that you’ll probably regret.  For the love of guacamole, don’t let bread be one of them.

Thanks for your time.

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