Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Retirement Plans Remembered

When I (Chuck) retired, I planned to learn how to bake bread. I imagined the smell of bread baking in the oven wafting through the house, the sound of snapping my fingernail on the hard crust of a loaf just removed from the oven, and the taste--the magnificent taste--of a slice of that fresh-baked loaf that had substance, taste, and nourishment. And a meal in itself.

But when our friend, Tom, introduced us to the Crossroads Bake Shop in Doylestown (PA), my baking avocation ceased.

But we're not in Doylestown anymore.

So, it was with great anticipation that we entered the House of Bread in Albuquerque.

And right in front of us was a rack of several loaves of bread. What a sight and what a wonderful aroma of bread fresh out of the ovens. Over two dozen different kinds of bread are available, but not all are available every day. About nine different kinds of bread were baked the day we stopped by.

The two-dozen-plus breads ranged from Honey Whole Wheat, Challa, and Ciabatta to Rye, Sprouted Wheat, and Gluten-Free Rice Bread. Two interesting kinds were Green Chile Cheese and Spelt (spelt flour is a wheat alternative) (above), but we took home a loaf of Grandma's White Bread.

Along with the breads, were shelves of sweet rolls and muffins. Shown here are: (top shelf) Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls, Raisin Low-fat Bran Muffins, and Blueberry Muffins; (middle shelf) Cinnamon Rolls with nuts and/or raisins, Cinnamon Rolls, and Raspberry Pinwheels; and (bottom shelf) Cinnamon Twists, Garlic Cheese Twists, and Sticky Buns.

Shown on the left are the Blueberry Muffins and Double Chocolate Scones. In the lower right corner are the Raspberry Pinwheels (sweet rolls).

Now my mother made some of the best sweet rolls I've ever tasted, so I often will order a sweet roll to see how they compare to hers. Many restaurants try to serve "the largest sweet roll in town" and miss the flavor and texture of a sweet roll.

We bought a couple of the Raspberry Pinwheels and were pleasantly surprised by how light they were throughout the roll. The tartness of the raspberry combined nicely with the frosting. (I cannot be objective in comparing sweet rolls with my mother's, however.)

Some of our purchases are shown in the next photos. The Holiday Loaf contained cranberries, dried apples, dried apricots, and pecans with honey and vanilla.

The Blueberry Crumble is a loaf of Grandma's White Bread swirled with oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, and blueberries. I enjoyed this bread with breakfast, and I wondered about just having a couple of slices as the whole breakfast meal. I might try toasting it next.

But Grandma's White bread (made from unbleached, unbromated white flour) came very close to what I would hope to produce if I were fulfilling my retirement goal. We used the bread, described as "the best old standard," to make grilled cheese sandwiches. Even with the melted cheese, the bread remained crisp all the way through, so that the crunch was not just felt on the surface but through the entire depth of each slice.

Dennis and Linda Vik use fresh, natural stone-milled wheat flour (stone-ground daily in a wheat mill visible in the customer area) for all their products. (Fresh flour is more nutritious and makes a tastier bread. Flour that is left to sit oxidizes and nutrients dissipate into the air, which also negatively affects the flavor.)

So, even though House of Bread is a franchise operation, the breads and muffins have the touch of a "Mom and Pop" business.

They also have an opening for an Assistant Baker.

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