My Bin and I were eating the sandwich bread that I’d baked the day before. Chewing thoughtfully he asks me, “What’s the difference between this bread and the bread we buy at the supermarket?”
At first I stare at him blankly, my mind racing with a million reasons, most of which should be obvious. Finally I say, “Homemade just tastes better.”
Indeed, there’s something incomparable about the smell of bread baking. It smells like … well, it smells like bread. But more importantly, it smells like the essence of bread ”“ flour, salt, and most especially yeast. A loaf in the oven is so intoxicating that its aroma fills the house and the neighborhood, announcing to one and all that “some lovin’ is comin’ from the oven.”
This here funny looking thing is called monkey bread. Jaunty 1-ounce balls of dough are piled gently on top of one another and baked in a ring mold. The result is amusing for both hand and eye. And because monkeys are known for gleefully pulling er, everything, it follows that a loaf of bread requiring audience participation would be called monkey bread. The idea is that you pick at the bread balls like a bunch of … that it’s more fun than a barrel of… well, you get the idea.
This monkey bread is adapted from Lora Brody’s book, Chocolate, American Style. It’s a tender, yeasty bread that reminds me very much of brioche. Nestled inside each ball of dough is a hunk of milk chocolate that melts during baking and oozes at the first warm bite. During molding, the balls are each dipped in hot butter and then rolled in sugar. The balls on top have an especially sweet, crispy crust which unfortunately, also made them more susceptible to burning.
The other loaf I made is a simple bread good for sandwiches. Called a Pullman loaf, it’s meant to be made in a Pullman pan, which is a rectangular pan with a lid. The lid prevents any further rising, so the loaf bakes up like a regular square loaf. I don’t own a Pullman pan, so I improvised by weighting down the dough with two baking sheets and a heavy Pyrex bowl.
I’d forgotten how alive and powerful yeast is. The little loaf that could pushed through all that weight in the oven and I’m forced to remove the cumbersome implements ”“ all except for one baking sheet which had stubbornly glommed itself onto the mighty loaf. It was quite a sight, believe me. Ah, baking — always an adventure.
Aside from a severely skewed top, I was pleased with this Pullman bread. It had a tight crumb and a crusty crust, the way good sandwich breads should be. Eating it with a pat of butter minutes after it came out of the oven was celestial.