If there’s anything Lithuanians love more than beer and basketball, it’s our bread. Unlike good beer and good basketball, this dense, sour, dark rye loaf is quite difficult to find in the States, and undeniably, black bread is the food we miss most when we leave. It is the staple of staples: it accompanies cold cuts and soups, it’s rubbed with fresh garlic and fried (ohmygod), or topped with fresh farmer’s cheese and honey for a light breakfast (again, ohmygod).
I’ve attempted to recreate it before, without much success. There’s more to it than just using a buttload of dark rye flour and hoping for the best… Much more. And honestly, I’m not “there” yet–a true Lithuanian loaf requires a sourdough starter. (Gourmantine’s method is what I’m trying next.) But, for a batch of two loaves that you can make in half a day, this is pretty close, and it’s delicious anyhow.
So, how did we get here? Deb from Smitten Kitchen flying in with her black bread superhero cape. I’d had many a disappointment when attempting to make black bread before, and was hesitant to try anything else, but Deb is what one might eloquently call a BAMF, so naturally, her stamp of approval was the nudge I needed to give this another go. I’m so glad I did.
How long would you be willing to wait for breakfast? In San Francisco’s gritty Tenderloin District, to be exact? I only ask because Dottie’s True Blue, located in said area, is my personal record at just over an hour. (By the way, there’s no such wait time if you’re looking for something stronger than coffee in the Tenderloin, as evidenced by the string of people coming and going from the nearby hotel–say what you will about drug dealers, but some of them run an efficient operation. Credit where credit is due.)
But yeah. Dottie’s is worth it. Whiskey-fennel-sausage-worth-it. Grilled-cornbread-and-jalapeno-jelly-worth-it. Don’t even get me started on the baked goods I’m always compelled to grab to go: blueberry whiskey crumb cake, sweet potato pop tarts, rocky road bars…
Oh, and their standard toast bread? Buttermilk dill. It’s incredible. Recently, the planets aligned perfectly, and I had both leftover buttermilk and a bunch of fresh dill. I’m sure I’ll make it back to Dottie’s this summer, but meanwhile, let’s make some biscuits.
Without further ado, some things that make me happy lately, in addition to these light, tender, tart fruit-studded beauties:
-Trying to dress more like Bret McKenzie. Namely, those animal sweatshirts… Amazing.
-Remembering to add the fabric softener like a real adult. This means paying attention to the washing machine and what the last rinse cycle sounds like, which seems like Unnecessary Waste of Brain, but it’s worth it.
-Concert season officially started, last night, with the Black Keys. It was stellar. I danced my face off.
Life without a face is a bit of an adjustment, but I’m getting used to it.
This is the “You can do that?!?” edition of This Space.
Shorts in the winter? Sure.
Power nap at work? Sometimes it’s more necessary than eating lunch.
Stave off a cold as soon as your throat feels scratchy? I’m a believer.
Record a whole album about Some Dude and win a buttload of Grammys? Well played, Adele.
Make bread without kneading? This straight-up blew my mind.
And not just ANY bread. I’m talking about perfect bread, the kind you daydream about. Chewy bread with big irregular holes and a beautifully golden brown crust. I’ve tried to do this before. I would mix and knead and wait and FINALLY bake, all the while visions of this kind of texture heaven with a beautiful brown crust danced in my head. It was disappointing every time. I mean, it tasted good, because, CARBS! But the chewiness, and the texture never came. And the crust? Pale and nothing special, every single time.
Well, this is how I won, and you can too.
Did I mention how little effort this took? Not much, not much at all. I’ve put more effort into much stupider things.