12.186 (French) Bread (Loaf)


10 (Sat) July 2021

(French) Bread (Loaf)


by me

at home

-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-

with the Family

Newbery 100 Medals, 100 Meals (59-60) (see 100 NEWBERY M&Ms)

While reading the 100 books that have been awarded the annual Newbery Medal since 1922, I will also attempt to create one dish for every book, a dish that is directly referenced in or indirectly inspired by the events of the book.  Food plays a strong role in many of the stories; not surprising as the characters in most of the books are faced with adversity of some sort, including poverty, so they’re often very hungry and thus grateful whenever they get a bite to eat – as we all should be at every meal (i.e., give us this day our daily bread).  The dishes will be featured as posts on Give Me This Day.

Multiple titles are presented in this post.  The only shared connection between the 2 books is reference to bread.

Upholding Puffin Newbery Library’s fine tradition of terrible book covers (see also 11.308 Potatoes Golly Too; 12.094 Chuno (Gamja Jeon); 12.107 Acorn with Bright Red Vines; 12.156 Roasted Capons (Just Regular Chickens)).

Dobry (1935) by Monica Shannon.  Set in a Bulgarian farming village, the book is about Dobry, a young farmer boy who longs to be an artist, engaging in various tasks around the village, encountering village elders who yell a lot and tell folk tales, while his mother fusses at home to bake bread.

I didn’t get it, at all.  The story played out in my head like a poorly written, poorly produced musical with terrible dialogue, half-sung, half-yelled, in mock Eastern European accents.

[paraphrased in part]

The mayor’s courtyard was black with small goats, and he stood in the middle of them, scolding the goatherd.  “Goats can be black without looking as it they were in mourning for all their relatives!” he bellowed.  “If you took them where you should take them, my goats would be as fat and as cheerful-looking as bishops.  Take them where there are trees, leaves!  You blockhead!  Goats like autumn leaves even better than my stomach likes onions.  Take them off!  Let them stretch their necks for leaves – that will put bellies on them!  Go, go!”  He sent the goatherd sprawling.”  

Yet another example of the trend in early Newbery winners to feature “exotic” settings, written by white American authors with no legitimate connection to the culture beyond fanciful imagination.  For example, the depiction of gypsies throughout the book is cliché and potentially offensive to people of Bulgarian background.

At last, I purchased a bread maker: Cuisinart CBK 110.  The need to bake bread for this Newbery project was a compelling factor.

I was looking forward to cooking something Bulgarian, until I read the following passage.

[paraphrased in part]

His mother was intent on mixing the first flour of the year with yeast and water, putting it into enormous wooden bowls for its first rising overnight.  This was more than bread-making, it was a ritual of thanksgiving.  Tomorrow, when this bread made from the new flour was baked, it would be piled into bowls outside their front door with hunks of cheese and butter in the middle of each loaf.  Everybody would stop, eat, and say from his heart:

God bless this house and give it daily bread.  Bless the people who live here, bless their wheat fields with twice as many sheaves and with even thicker beards.”

Paraphrasing a line from the Lord’s Prayer – “Give us this day our daily bread….” – which also inspired the name of this blog “Give Me This Day.”

I don’t like this cover either, for different reasons.

Crispin: The Cross of Lead (2003) by Avi.  Set in the English countryside, the year 1377, the book is about Crispin, a peasant boy who discovers SPOILER: that he is actually of royal blood.

It was okayish as an historical adventure tale, but I didn’t find that it offered much substance, baffled at what the Newbery committee had been thinking in giving it the Medal.

To get the amounts exactly right, I weighed out each ingredient; alas, a misreading of the recipe prompted me to add an extra tablespoon of water (15 grams).

As Crispin flees from royal soldiers who are ordered to kill him to conceal the secret of his lineage, he encounters a man named Bear, who eventually becomes his friend and mentor.

[paraphrased in part]

“Come closer.  I’ll give you bread.”

My hunger was so great that whatever prudence I might’ve had, I put aside.  I approached the man where he sat.  With something close to elation I saw him pull up a large, gray lump of bread which he held up.  I reached out toward it.  The moment I did, his free hand shot out and grabbed me by my wrist and held me with the strength of stone.

“Let me go,” I cried. “I only wanted bread.”

“Bread is never free, boy,” he roared.

Bread is never free – indeed.

The extra water may have prevented a proper rise.

Among the many recipes that came with the machine, I started with French Bread Loaf, which only required water + salt + flour + yeast.

Alas, my very first bread from scratch, it was not good.  Way too dry and crunchy on the outside.  Way too moist and dense on the inside.  Part of the problem was the extra water, but I suspect that I didn’t use the right kind of flour.

I missed the alert to remove the kneading paddle, which got cooked into the loaf.


3 thoughts on “12.186 (French) Bread (Loaf)

  1. Oh nooooo not a bread maker….my mother used to have one, and I recall eating countless servings of dry, crumbly, lackadaisical ‘bread.’ I was very thankful when she finally tossed it. (Apart from baking, she’s an excellent cook).

    I’d recommend you look into “no knead bread” (if you haven’t done so already); there’s several recipes floating about but most follow the same principle: a dough with high hydration, allowed to ferment slowly over the course of days rather than an hour, thus bypassing the need for mechanical kneading as the microbial action sufficiently agitates the dough. I’m a thoroughly mediocre baker and I’ve made many a tasty loaf with this method.

    1. Also, I’ve used all purpose flour and the results are still fine. Perhaps slightly less chewy than if I had used bread flour, but more than satisfactory.

    2. i’d done a tiny bit of research before buying the thing, and most reviews were generally positive, with the caveat about crusts not being so crispy etc, but nothing absolutely negative. i’ll experiment a bit more before making a decision.

      and yes, of course, how well you know me, i do have a recipe from NYT for no-knead bread, which I’ll try after the bread machine….

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