Garden Diary - January

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Baking Bread
Sunday, 14 January 2024

Baking bread is something I have done for very many years. There is something magical about the transformation of flour, yeast, and water into a brown crusty loaf, crackling as it starts to cool after coming from the oven.

There are some poor souls who are only familiar with commercial loaves,

soft and squishy loaves of packaged bread with soft crust, each slice of which
can be squashed, mashed down to spit ball size, requiring equally soft butter.

There have been times when even these poor imitations of bakery bread are gone.

Super Storm Sandy came through in November of 2012, and the shelves were empty of bread.
The same again in March of 2020, when covid-19 shuttered the world with which we were familiar.

Bread flour was among the extra food items for which I had prepped

For good oven spring and chewy crust I use a heavy enamelled cast iron pot

and the result is an excellent loaf with superb crust and lovely texture.

Today a friend and I were planning to go to Bread Lock Park for their monthly open house when, appropriately enough, Warren County resident Chris Magnus would demonstrate bread baking in a Dutch oven over a campfire. Why Bread Lock? Apparently back in the mid-19th century Lock 7 West became known as “Bread Lock” because the store at the end of the lock sold goods to boatmen passing through , including homemade bread and pies.

In use from the 1820s to the 1920s, the historic Morris Canal stretched 102 miles from the Delaware River along Phillipsburg to the Hudson River along Jersey City. Overcoming a height elevation of 914 feet using 23 locks and 23 inclined planes, the canal became known as the “Mountain Climbing Canal” and was a major engineering feat of its day.

Better safe than sorry - we decided not to go when the weather forecast was majorly unpleasant, even hazardous - one or more bands of snow squalls moving east at 50 to 55 mph along the leading edge of an arctic airmass, with the potential to impact portions of eastern Pennsylvania and adjacent areas of New Jersey and northern Delaware. Near whiteout conditions and a quick one half inch of snow in just 10 to 15 minutes leading to dangerous travel conditions as a result of the very poor visibility and snow or ice covered roads. Winds will gust up to 50 mph in the squalls.

We would have seen, I expect, something sort of like this

with the Dutch oven set down in the coals and more heaped up on its lid.

I will instead, safely at home, enjoy a loaf baked in my oven

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