There’s no denying it: Sandwiches, bread, and pizza are the dishes home cooks—even experienced ones—are most likely to outsource. Sandwiches, tacos, and the like are America’s most popular take-out food; bread is commonly thought to be difficult, time-consuming, and finicky to bake; and pizza is more closely affiliated with telephones than with home ovens.

My job is to change your mind about all of this, or at least some of it some of the time, and I’m going to try to do that with a collection of straightforward and rewarding recipes for breads of all kinds.

We start with a lesson on different types of bread and how to use them for croutons, sandwiches, tacos, and burritos. After that you’ll start turning out biscuits, muffins, scones, and other quick breads—so called because they come together in an instant. (Really.) Then we move on to the simplest yeasted breads, rolls, and pizza, all easy enough to prove that baking can be a natural part of everyday cooking. Along the way you’ll learn to master the measuring and mixing techniques that guarantee success.

Very few people get to the point where they make all of their own bread, but it’s easy enough to add loads of baked goods to your regular repertoire: corn bread to go with weeknight chili, Sunday morning cinnamon rolls, and edible thank-you gifts like homemade banana bread. Or maybe you’ll tap your inner baker and open up a whole new part of kitchen life. Hey, you never know until you try.

Bread and Sandwich Basics

Crust and Crumb

Bread has a language of its own. The best way to learn is to eat, so start by trying several kinds at the best bakery you can find (it might be in a supermarket, but probably not). The differences are pronounced: thick, chewy crusts; crumbly insides; lots of holes; breads with crackly crusts and chewy interiors; those that are soft and doughy, sweet and dense; and so on. Each has its own character and its own best uses, but ultimately you’ll decide what you like.

How to Cut Bread for Sandwiches

Bakeries have mechanical slicers, which give perfectly uniform slices, though not much choice in thickness. To do it yourself, grab a long serrated knife and let’s go.

SANDWICH LOAVES With slow, steady back-and-forth motion, cut into slices about ½ inch thick.

FLAT LOAVES Like baguettes, focaccia, bagels, and ciabatta: Cut it into manageable squares or lengths. Then—keeping your fingers out of the path of the blade —slice it horizontally.

PITA BREAD Cut pocket pitas in half and stuff; or if there is no pocket, just fold bread to enclose the fillings and eat like a taco.

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