World Bread Day

Today is World Bread Day. It’s my usual day to bake a loaf of bread for the next week, as well.

I’m pretty set in my ways. Even though I often experiment one way or another with flour combinations, even the shape…this is pretty much my standard loaf. King Arthur flour, of course. This one happens to be 50/50 blend of their All-Purpose and Bread Flours. A touch more protein than straight AP.

Can’t wait for the first slice toasted with breakfast, tomorrow. But, I shall. 🙂

Baking your own bread — rules!


Bread bakers can disagree even when they’re on the same side. I never add sugar to my “poolish” or the completed recipe…flour, water, yeast, a little salt. Which I generally age in the fridge 2-5 days before shaping, rising and baking. BTW, the dough in my household – ready to shape and bake – is called “Jabba”.

AIG stock sale repays bailout – US Treasury makes a profit

American International Group Inc. (AIG) shares valued at $18 billion were sold by the U.S. government, converting a four-year bailout into a profit for taxpayers.

The U.S. sold about 553.8 million shares at $32.50 apiece, the Treasury Department said yesterday in a statement. The New York-based insurer bought $5 billion of the stock. The U.S. has recovered its full $182.3 billion commitment under the rescue with a profit of about $12.4 billion and still holds about 22 percent of the insurer’s shares for future sale, Treasury said. Every dollar made on those sales will be profit to taxpayers.

“To stabilize and then restructure the company with a very substantial positive gain for the American taxpayer is a significant accomplishment,” Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said in the statement. “We need to continue the critical task of implementing Wall Street reform so that the American economy is never put in this position again.”

With the Treasury stake below 50 percent, the Federal Reserve will become the company’s regulator, the insurer said in a preliminary prospectus supplement. AIG may face capital requirements and limits on its ability to repurchase stock or pay a dividend, under Fed oversight, according to the document…

The U.S. needs to average about $28.73 a share on the sales to break even on the equity stake it acquired as part of a 2008 bailout, excluding unpaid dividends and fees, according to the Government Accountability Office. The first two offerings were priced at $29 a share, and the second two at $30.50. And yesterday’s sale was at $32.50 per share.

On ethical grounds, I opposed the bailout of banks and financial institutions. The potential crash IMHO would not have affected the American economy structurally. I was confident it would break even or be profitable, regardless. In contrast to the auto bailout where inaction would have pushed millions more into unemployment and have done structural damage to the heartland of our manufacturing economy.

Most of both classes of bailout have achieved what was the intent. We are coming back slowly and surely from the Bush crisis. Hopefully Americans won’t be gullible enough to vote the clowns back into office who supported the silliness and voodoo economics that initiated the crisis – almost pressing our nation into a repeat of the Great Depression.

We were fortunate to have a treasury secretary and president with sufficient economics education to institute reforms modern enough to get past the Hooverites in the Republican Party. Fortunate enough to keep from crushing a traditional core American industry. Smart enough to structure the financial bailout so that each segment repaired has returned a profit to the US Treasury.

If you have an attention span longer than reality TV allows for, you might recall that Republicans fought for the financial bailout – to rescue their buddies. And their terms wouldn’t have included a profit to taxpayers. Just as strong, they opposed the auto bailout because – after all – that was focused on saving a manufacturing industry and jobs for millions of working people. Not important to the list of Republican priorities.

Savory Bread

At last, Campbell’s secret of savory bread is revealed!

OK. I’ve promised this, before. Here’s my secret to savory breads. In this case, my recipe for Focaccia.

I tend to start with a quick Biga, rather than the traditional, slower, overnight rising. If you wish to develop the yeast, more slowly, and acquire more flavor — only add about a 1/4 teaspoon of yeast and don’t even use the light bulb to heat the oven. Let it talk to itself 12-24 hours.

12 oz very warm water + 9 oz. all-purpose, unbleached flour + 1 level tsp dry active yeast + pinch of ascorbic acid powder [vitamin C]. I only use King Arthur flour. I use SAF Red Label dry active yeast. Mix thoroughly into batter consistency, nice and smooth. I stick the container [covered with plastic film to retain water] in our kitchen’s lower oven with the bulb turned on — stays around 90 degrees in there — and let it rise till it starts to collapse on its own. Typically, about 2 hours at our altitude. Then, I add another 5 oz. flour, mix it, still using the paddle on my Kitchenaid and put it back in the rising oven. Check it about a half-hour to an hour later — and add the final 2 oz. of flour along with a level tsp. of salt.

This gives me 75% water by weight in the dough. It’s pretty ragged and wet. After a wee bit of mixing and hand-kneading, I put the ball of dough into an oiled bowl, roll it to coat with olive oil and cover it with plastic film. I usually preheat the bowl with hot water before I put the dough into it.

Three or four risings [depends on how patient you are], punched down each time and back into the rising oven. At our altitude [6500’] with the self-generated yeast throughout the dough, this doubles in size in 25-30 minutes. Here’s the sneaky bit. Regardless of toppings of herbs and other flavorings I might knead into the dough before the final rise, I knead a couple of very finely chopped shallots into the dough before that last bowl-rise. I’ve experimented with several aliums; but, this is the one that works. Bread baking temperatures and time seems to cook the shallot to perfection and still leave just the hint of texture. The aroma this adds is a delight.

Use your own preferences for other additions. Sometimes, I will add oregano to the dough. Sometimes, I brush the finished product with egg white and water, halfway through baking, and sprinkle chopped rosemary or fennel seeds, whatever.

Now, practically “pouring” the dough from the rising bowl onto a piece of parchment paper on an open end baking sheet, I shape it with firm fingertip pressure into a round focaccia. I usually sprinkle the top with a little coarse-ground corn meal and cover it with a dish towel and put it back into the rising oven for a minimum hour-and-a-half rise — often as much as three hours.

I put a full-width pizza stone in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees for at least a half-hour at temperature — and switch over to 450 degrees convection just as I put the loaf in. I slide the loaf on the parchment paper onto a peel and, then, both, onto the pizza stone. After about 6 minutes, I use the peel to slide it back out, rotate 180 degrees, and slide the focaccia back in directly onto the stone — to crisp and brown the bottom a bit more. This is baked through in 12-14 minutes total. Remove and set on a rack to cool.

Yes, I’m one of those people who won’t let you get into freshly-baked bread for 25 minutes minimum. Try this when you have a day at home. I think you’ll love it.