Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Brioche a Tete and Cinnamon Rum Raisin Snails {bba}

The fun and learning of the BBA Challenge continues! This round's assigned bread is Brioche, that buttery and delicate French yeast bread. I'll have to say I felt like a real "grown up" bread baker this time around. The Anadama (Round 1) was quirky and friendly, the Artos (Round 2) was interesting and cultural, the Bagels (Round 3) were iconic yet approachable, but the Brioche is sophisticated and just a bit intimidating. It is a bread that I would not typically select, but I enjoyed baking such a famous bread and working with a different type of dough.

Brioche, a classic French recipe, is an enriched dough, typically containing a generous amount of eggs and butter. Brioche can be eaten as a loaf or can be the base recipe for many other types of baked goods (e.g. cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, tarts, wraps and en croute applications.) Reinhart gives three different formulas for brioche, Rich Man's, Middle Class, and Poor Man's, with correspondingly lesser amounts of butter as the class decreases. The richest of the doughs contains a whopping 90% ratio of butter to flour. The leanest, Poor Man's, is suitable for en croute and other applications, having no butter at all.

Brioche is traditionally baked in round fluted pans of varying sizes, and the bread is shaped with a "tete" (head in French) on top. I drew the line at buying a specialty pan for one batch of brioche - I rather doubt that brioche will make a regular appearance in my kitchen. I do have a vintage tin mold that is somewhat similar so I decided to use part of my brioche dough to make a traditional loaf a tete and shape the remainder of the dough into cinnamon rolls.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- I made the Middle Class brioche, since Reinhart says that this dough is good for cinnamon rolls, albeit rich ones. To bake this variation, I had to flip pages in the book. The ingredients are listed under the Middle Class formula but then the bread follows the method of the Rich Man's page. This ended up being pretty confusing, as I kept measuring out the Rich Man's ingredients by mistake. This has happened to me with other recipe variations in the BBA book (the Artos week, when I forgot to add the fruit at the appropriate time). Although I managed to avoid any mistakes, I caught a few just in time! Next time I make one of Reinhart's variations I will retype the recipe to bypass the confusion.

- You can find a version of the Middle Class brioche recipe here.

- Making the sponge was pretty uneventful

- I did forget to soften the butter, so I ended up using the microwave.

When the sponge was ready I used my food processor to mix the dough. This is how I did it:

--First I pulsed all of the dry ingredients.
--In a separate bowl I whisked the sponge with the eggs.
Then slowly I added this "wet" mixture to the dry, pulsing between additions, until incorporated. At this point the dough was pretty stiff.
--Then I added the soft butter in 4 batches, pulsing briefly to incorporate, then a bit longer until the dough was mixed and smooth
- When I was patting the dough into a rectangle I found some flour lumps, which I tried to squeeze with my fingers.

The dough contained an amazing amount of butter - and this was the Middle Class variation? With the Rich Man's it would have been a question of "have a little flour with your butter? "

- My dough weighed almost exactly 1 kg. I used 400g (14 oz) for the loaf and the other 600 g I formed into cinnamon rolls. Working with the dough was more like shaping (greasy) modeling clay than bread dough.

- As it baked, my brioche a tete loaf lost its tete. I still thought it was pretty cute.

- I got my inspiration to make cinnamon rolls from a blog called The Missing Piece, specifically this post about brioche/cinnamon rolls. I used her recipe for cinnamon sugar as a jumping off point. Here's what I mixed: 3/4 c dark brown sugar, 1/4 c granulated sugar, 5 tsp cinnamon, 1/8 tsp salt and 1 1/2 T melted butter.

- I made the
rum raisins from Dorie Greenspan's Raisin Snails

- The cinnamon rolls expanded a lot in the oven, spreading out not up, so they looked like saucers. Or dinner plates! I wish I'd sliced them thicker, so they'd have been nice and tall.

- I mixed up a glaze of confectioner's sugar, vanilla and water, which I drizzled on half of the cinnamon rolls. I found out that the Whole Foods all natural confectioner's sugar turns gray when mixed with water...

the verdict:

We were invited to an outdoor dinner and concert and I brought the loaf as a gift for the host couple since I knew that we would never eat a whole loaf of brioche. Luckily they passed it around for those who wanted tastes, and I got to sample a bit. It had a lovely crumb inside and tasted quite refined and buttery.

And the cinnamon rolls? Let's just say that my husband ate three for breakfast! I had a bite of one of his - the crumb was delicate and light. I really liked the intense cinnamon sugar and the raisins were a nice addition but the rum was pretty subtle, I thought. I'd probably prefer a chewier, leaner dough in my cinnamon rolls, but these were pretty good (my husband would say delicious!) We'll be trying Peter Reinhart's version of cinnamon rolls when we get a little further down the alphabetical list, and I will be quite interested in seeing how they compare (I've saved a few of this batch in the freezer.)

Our next bread will bring us to the letter "C" (the book is arranged alphabetically)! and the unusual Italian savory brioche-type bread known as Casatiello. Look for the post in about 2 weeks. Come back before then to see the Brioche Roundup of the Slow and Steady BBA Challenge subgroup, and maybe some non-BBA bread, too!

Update: I'm sending this bread over to Yeastspotting. Check out all the yeasty goodness that is posted there weekly!

I'm going to apologize again for any weird formatting errors. I've had lots of computer issues lately, and the html gets messed up and I just can't fix it sometimes.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

BBB Asparagus Spring Onion Bread

This month the fabulous Bread Baking Babes baked an usual savory offering: Asparagus Bread. At first I was a bit dubious, but then I read further and the bread started to sound better and better. With the adoption of two recommended variations to the recipe I was in business.

n.o.e.’s notes:

- Lien of Notitie von Lien was this month's host Babe. You can find the recipe on the her post, or here on Natashya’s post.

- I made a half recipe.

- As soon as I saw that the recipe could be made with part white whole wheat I knew I’d make the loaves that way. I ended up using 150 g bread flour + 100g white whole wheat.

- I had all of the ingredients on hand except for asparagus. The recipe mentions “p. e. spring onions” as an acceptable substitute. I’m not sure about the “p. e.” part, but my refrigerator was harboring some lovely “AL” spring onions, so I decided they would qualify.

- I used the green parts of the spring onions, and sautéed them in a bit of olive oil until lightly browned. Then I simmered them in a splash of white wine until softened.

- This bread was a great place to use black walnuts!

- I tried to drain and dry the arugula as much as possible, and used shredded Parmesan.

- I took a chance on my fresh yeast, and it was still strong after 4+ weeks!

- I mixed and kneaded the dough entirely by hand. It was a bit stiff, so I kneaded on olive oil surface, and wet my hands with water to moisten dough just a bit. After about 10 minutes I had a lovely pliable, elastic dough.

- The recipe makes petite loaves; my single loaf fit my little oval banneton perfectly. I’ve never used the banneton before, and I was excited to see how it would work! I made sure to flour it heavily. After forming the loaf, I placed it seam side up in the basket. I probably should have sealed the seam and tucked the ends a little bit better, as the loaf kept popping open during the second rise! I kept pinching the dough closed.

- The recipe had some interesting baking instructions. As directed, I used a steam pan at the bottom of my oven, and started with the oven at 480 degrees for 5 minutes, then turned the oven down to 390 degrees. I opened the oven to let air in every 10 minutes. My bread tested done at around 35 minutes.

- My bread popped right out of the banneton. Isn't it beautiful?

The verdict:

This was a wonderful country bread filled with savory flavors. It smelled and tasted unusual and delicious. The crumb is sturdy yet moist. I enjoyed the bread warmed with dinner and toasted with an egg for breakfast. My husband took a small piece to be nice but didn’t really care for it. Here’s his direct quote, “I think bread should be bread and vegetables should be vegetables.” Oh, well, more for me!!

I'm sending this bread to Yeastspotting, a wonderful weekly compendium of yeasty goodness.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

BBA Slow & Steady #3: Bagels roundup

All the bloggers in the Slow & Steady subgroup of the BBA Challenge had a great time making bagels. Going into this round of baking we were pretty evenly split between those who adore bagels - specifically New York bagels - and those who never really cared for bagels, but after baking Reinhart's bagel formula we were all united in how much we loved the tasty results!

This time around we've got a few new bloggers baking along with us, so be sure to check out all the wonderful bagel-y goodness.

First up this challenge is Audrey of Food From Books (that's her bagel up above) She had some wonderful New York bagels from her childhood to serve as her benchmark; luckily her own bagels stacked up nicely. She lists the lessons she has learned from the BBA Challenge. Find out what they are in her post: Bread Baker's Apprentice #3: Bagels!

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Cathy of The Tortefeasor found that she was able to produce the best bagels in town - right in her kitchen! These bagels compared favorably to her erstwhile favorites from such bagel hotbeds as New York City and Charlottesville, Virginia. For details, read her post: BBA: Bagels.

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Even though Jessica of A Singleton in the Kitchen is usually not a huge fan of bagels, she found her one hour of kneading to be well worth the delicious result, calling them "insanely good"! Read her BBA: Bagels and Cranberry Bagels .

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You can be certain that bagels didn't last long with the houseful of boys + guests over at the home of Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table . Even Kayte herself, who normally doesn't care for bagels, love these homemade ones! See the details on her post: BBA Challenge: Bagels

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Melissa of From Laptop to Stovetop is not on the BBA blogroll, but she has been following along with the BBA Challenge and baking the breads. Check out her beautiful bagels on her post: Bread Baker's Apprentice: Bagels!

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I'm not sure that my blogging friend Di of Di's Kitchen Notebook is trying to bake on our slower pace, but she's posting at approximately the same time, so I'm including her in the roundup! Di grew up on New York bagels and has made bagels before but she was very pleased with how delicious the BBA bagels are! See her post here: Bagels big and small

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Natalia of Gatti Fili e Farina made some lovely sourdough bagels - a rare treat in Italy! Read about her experiences in her post: BBA Sourdough Bagels

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Sarah, of Blue Ridge Baker, found that the BBA Challenge was just the motivation she needed to try her hand at baking bagels, and these turned out to be the best she's tasted (and her husband agreed, too!) Here's her post: BBA Challenge: Bagels

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My bagels have been stored in the freezer and doled out gradually. Each one is savored, and I can not believe how delicious the home made bagels are, especially with butter.

The bagels were the most fun ever! Can't wait until I can make them again. In the meantime, our next BBA Challenge bread is Brioche. Look for it to be posted on the Slow & Steady blogs around June 28 or 29. And then, on to breads beginning with the letter "C"!

Note: If you've asked me to be part of the Slow & Steady subgroup of BBAChallenge and I haven't included you, please leave a comment and let me know. I've had a ton of computer and other logistical issues and may have inadvertently dropped you.


Leslie of Lethally Delicious baked - and loved - these bagels. She made the cinnamon raisin variation and was astonished that bagels could be made at home! Read her post: BBA Rewind: Cinnamon Raisin Bagels]

Monday, June 15, 2009

Bagels {bba}

When I first heard of the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge I paged through Peter Reinhart’s wonderful book. The Challenge is to bake each recipe of the book in order, and although I already knew I liked the book, I had to see if I could really bake every one of the “formulas” (what Reinhart calls his bread recipes) in it. A couple of the breads clinched the deal for me - I wanted the structure of the group to force me to make them sooner rather than later. Bagels and ciabatta were my top two, and they come early in the alphabet (and thus early in the challenge)! The bagel pages are especially enticing, as Reinhart gives a page-long introduction to the type of bagel he sought to make and why he believes his formula produces a “bagel for the ages”.

A “bagel for the ages”? Sign me up! I grew up in the suburbs of New York City, and a good chewy water bagel – the kind that Reinhart’s formula promises – was the stuff of my childhood. The gods can keep their ambrosia; I’ll be happy with a toasted bagel and butter for my perfect food. I’ve been able to find decent bagels in Atlanta, notably at Goldberg’s Bagel Company & Deli and the now-defunct Snack N’ Shop Deli, but I never considered it possible to make good, much less superior, bagels at home.

I baked these a couple of weekends ago, because I was about to lose reliable access to my kitchen (we’re refinishing the hardwood floors and repainting the main level of the house). Bagel baking seemed like an exciting challenge - a series of steps spread over two days, including a choice of shaping methods, and boiling the bagels in water before baking at relatively high heat.

To make it more fun, a bunch of my baking cyber-buddies were making their bagels at the same time and we were able to compare notes via Twitter – and pictures via Flickr. I know that I’d enjoy baking alongside them in person (someday, maybe!), but for now a virtual bake-along is the next best thing. The coolest part is that everyone's bagels turned out well!

The verdict:

I’m going to reverse my normal order and give the verdict first! I baked the first batch when J.D.E. was here with her friend G. We ate them toasted with butter – we’re not cream cheese people. The bagels were a huge hit with everyone! The crust was shiny and a bit tough, just like it should be, and the inside was moist and chewy. The little bit of malt powder gave them an authentic bagel-shop flavor.

Of all the new things that I’ve baked in the past year, these bagels are the most gratifying. They were every bit as good as those from an excellent bagel shop, but they came from my kitchen! I know that I will bake bagels again and again.

The bagels in my first batch were a bit flatter than I’d like, but I soon fixed that. I was so excited about making bagels that the following day I baked two more half batches: plain and Greek Celebration flavor! The part whole grain Greek Celebration-flavored bagels that I made tasted like an extra-delicious version of a cinnamon-raisin bagel.

n.o.e.’s notes:

- You can find the bagel recipe , here, but I have to say that the book provides lots of essential baking information which makes the formulas much easier so it’s well worth buying.

First Round

- For my first try, I made 1/2 batch. The formula makes a lot of dough, and I wanted to be able to handle (and bake) it all.

- I mixed the bagels entirely by hand, and my dough took just over 5 minutes of kneading.

- My only error was to add the yeast to the flour instead of to the soaker. Although instant yeast is commonly added to bread dough with the flour, no so in the case of bagels, as apparently it could produce yeasty hot spots. Luckily my mistake didn’t seem to make any difference in my bagels.

- I made each bagel 3.5 ounces and formed them with the poke-thumb-through-ball method. I got 8 bagels from the half batch of dough.

- The bagels turned out a bit flatter than I would have liked, but otherwise the texture and taste were great.

Tower of skinny bagels seconds before collapsing backwards over the deck rail into the ivy bed!

Second Round

- This time I used 4 ounces of dough for each bagel, and formed them with the roll-and-squeeze-rope method. I could tell right away that they would be nice and fat!

In the picture above, you can see the new improved plump bagel on the left and the original batch, thinner bagel on the right.

Third Round

I was inspired by the bagels that Pinkstripes made, using the spices and fruit of the Greek Celebration bread, so my third half-batch was a similar concoction. Here’s what I did:

- I added 3.5 oz white whole wheat flour, 2 oz of rye flour, and 1 tsp vital wheat gluten to the soaker. The rest was high gluten white flour, as was all of the flour I added at the dough stage. I also doubled the yeast.

- To get that Greek Celebration flavor, I added:

1 cup of mixed raisins and dried cherries, rinsed and dried and dredged in flour.
2 T brown sugar
2 T honey
3/4 tsp mixed spice
3/4 tsp Vietnamese cinnamon
1/4 tsp lemon extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
- The Greek Celebration bagels took an extra 5 minutes to bake in the oven, probably because of all the ingredients I added.

I can't wait to make bagels again! I've already sourced some new ingredients. The first time I used diastatic malt powder and Lancelot high gluten flour that I ordered from King Arthur. Since then, I've located barley malt syrup at Whole Foods (on the honey shelf). And last week while I was on the other side of town on an errand I stopped in the oh-so-wonderful Alon's Bakery here in Atlanta. I bought some of their AMAZING ciabatta (we haven't gotten to the "C's" yet in the BBA book...), and figured I'd take a chance and ask about some specialty flours. The baker had no 00 flour or chestnut flour, but she was happy to scoop out 10 pounds of high gluten flour from the bakery's stash, which she sold me for $7.00. I'll be able to make a few batches of bagels with that flour!

In about a week, I'll post a round-up of the bagels of the BBA Challenge Slow & Steady subgroup. Our next bread recipe is Brioche (still in the "B's"!) which I'll post in two weeks.

Sending these bagels to Yeastspotting, a weekly roundup of all things yeasty.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

BBA Slow & Steady #2: Artos (Greek Celebration) Roundup

Last week the Slow and Steady subgroup of the he Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge posted the second recipe, the Artos, or Greek Celebration Bread. Author Peter Reinhart gives three different varieties of the same basic bread; each is for a different traditional purpose and each has a different shape and added ingredients.

We'll start first with Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table. Kayte never does anything halfway, and she made all three variations of the celebration bread consecutively (complete with optional glaze). In one weekend Kayte's family experienced Christmas (Christopsomos, top picture above), Easter (Lambropsomo, pictured just above) and a good old general celebration (boule, see picture below) Here's her post: BBA Challenge: Artos: Greek Celebration Breads .

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The next baker is Cathy of The Tortefeasor. Although her "baby" bread loaf was not totally unplanned, Cathy was surprised at her little one's hefty birth size. Her post:
It's a . . . .

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Jessica of Singleton in the Kitchen killed two birds with one stone, baking a cinnamon-roll version of Artos for her sister to enjoy. She used the monkey bread method to quickly shape a fun loaf. Read her post:
BBA: Artos (or) Greek Celebration Bread
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Audrey of Food From Books divided her dough and made two smaller loaves. She worked hard on her shaping, and I think it really shows! Here's her post:
Bread Baker's Apprentice #2: The art of Artos My favorite part of her post is the list of things she's learned from baking this recipe.
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I tried two of the shapes and learned that shaping bread is an art that will take me a good bit of practice! Especially braids...
Here's my post:
Artos, Greek Celebration Bread {bba}

Our next BBA post will be Bagels! Look for it on our blogs around June 14 or 15!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Artos, Greek Celebration Bread {bba}

Moving right along in Peter Reinhart's book, The Bread Baker's Apprentice, bread #2, still in the "A"s, is Artos, Greek Celebration bread. Reinhart gives a general-celebration version, and elaborations on the theme for Christmas and Easter, each incorporating a different set of fruit and nut add-ins.

The first yeast bread I ever made was a celebration bread, in November 2008. My success with Dorie Greenspan's Kugelhopf (and the instant yeast that I used in it) planted the germ that incubated into full blown yeast fever once the calendar turned to 2009. In the past 6 months, I've made a variety of celebration breads: stollen, kugelhopf (different recipe), hot cross buns, and Italian Dove Bread. We've never been able to finish a batch before it goes stale, so I put it in the freezer. There are so many celebration breads up there, I'm pretty sure there's always a party going on when I close the freezer door!

Because of this surfeit of fancy fruited bread in my life, I planned to make a partial recipe, bake a small loaf for us to taste and a larger one to give to a friend, and call it a day. But, enter Kayte, who is journeying through the BBA Challenge with me in the Slow & Steady sub-group, and who announced that she was going to make all three of the Greek Celebration variations (read her post!). That works for her, because she has a houseful of boys and their friends, all of whom are voracious eaters and don't gain an extra ounce besides what is needed for growing, naturally. Even though our house has just two middle-aged folks (and two middle-aged dogs), I was inspired to try the different shaping techniques. I skipped the boule and went straight for the fun stuff: the Lambropsomo and the Christopsomos, known affectionately as the braid and the octopus (do you see the resemblance?) Any of the loaves can be topped with a traditional honey citrus glaze and sprinkled with sesame seeds.

n.o.e.'s notes:

- The rich dough, aromatic spices, and dried fruit and nuts that I've used in all of the previous celebration loaves gave me a certain confidence when I approached the Artos, although Reinhart's method is different.

- Reinhart's Artos formula uses a poolish, a particular type of pre-fermented dough. Equal amounts of flour and water and just a touch of (instant) yeast are mixed up, and allowed to ferment until the following day. Other ingredients are then added to this bubbly poolish to make the final bread dough.

- I made half a recipe of the poolish, which yielded enough for two small batches (3/4 size) of Artos.

- For the final dough in each batch I used SAF Gold yeast, which is specially formulated for sweet rich doughs. The dough also has a combination of spices: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, and extracts: almond and lemon.


- This bread is traditionally baked for the Greek Easter celebration. It is a braided loaf that traditionally includes red-dyed hard boiled eggs tucked among the strands of the braid. I figured if I were going to make this bread, I was going to do it right! So I dyed a couple of eggs for the bread.

- I divided my dough and made 2 braided loaves, each with a red egg. As the recipe instructed, I placed the egg into the braid before the final rise. By the time the loaf was ready to go into the oven, red dye had run onto the surrounding bread dough. Even more dye bled while the bread was baking in the oven.

I proved to myself that my braiding technique needs more practice!
- Although I had measured out the fruit and nuts to add to the bread, I totally forgot to mix them in until I was halfway through shaping the loaves. I left one loaf plain (had already braided it ) and hastily worked some fruit into the other one before braiding. I used golden raisins, dried cherries, and toasted chopped walnuts (which are actually the preferred fruits for the other version of Artos - the Christopsomos)

These slices are from the plain braided loaf.

- The loaves turned out to be a fair size; it was hard to believe that each was half of a 3/4 batch of dough. To see the size of one full recipe-sized braid visit Cathy's post, Di's post, or Caitlin's.

- I gave one Lambropsomo braid to a dear friend, B. She is getting her master's degree in divinity, and I knew she would appreciate receiving a traditional Easter bread while it was still in the liturgical Easter Season. I was hesitant to give the loaf because of the mess from the red dye, but I had already promised it to her (and she really didn't mind it). B had a fabulous suggestion for the next time: bake the bread with an undyed hard boiled egg, then after baking, substitute the red egg for the plain. Genius! There's a reason she's in that high-powered academic program!


- This loaf is traditional for Christmas, and is shaped as a round loaf, or boule, with a curly-ended cross across the top.

- For this batch, I used nearly 1/3 white whole wheat flour, along with a bit of white all purpose flour and the white bread flour.

- I separated out 1/4 of dough and used the monkey bread technique, with 3/4 oz balls in a mini loaf pan. To see a full-size monkey-style Greek Celebration loaf, see Wendy's post.

- With the rest of the dough, I made the traditional Christopsomos shape, which required the dough to be shaped into a round boule before rising, and some dough reserved in the refrigerator for forming the curled cross just before baking the bread. This was my first boule, ever, and I tried to maintain the bread's surface tension. I might have let it rise a bit too long, as a rip developed in the top of the boule. The dough also ripped in holes around the nuts and fruit, especially in the cross pieces.

- My Christopsomos ended up being approximately half the size of a full recipe's loaf (mine was 3/4 of 3/4 recipe). Audrey's post shows two loaves approximately the size of my one. For a full size octopus, see Natashya's!

- This time I remembered to add the fruit and nuts to the dough at the correct time. I again used golden raisins, dried cherries and toasted walnuts.

- Once cooled, I popped the Christopsomos into the freezer. When my book group day rolled around I thawed the Christopsomos and made the glaze for it. I warmed the bread, thinking that it would help the glaze sink into the bread, but I think the reheating might have dried out the bread. Nonetheless, it was still good, especially with brie and honey.

- I made French toast with leftover Christmopsomos, and used the extra glaze as syrup on top.

the verdict:

This bread had a soft, tender crumb with understated sweetness and spice. It was less cake-y and more bread-y than some of the other celebration loaves that I've baked. I enjoyed trying the different methods of shaping the dough - I learned that I need lots more practice with braids and boules. But the bread is worthy of celebration!