I cheated. It wasn't a planned thing, it just kind of...happened. You know?
I'm talking about bread. What did you think I was talking about?
Based on the unfortunate results of previous efforts, I'd become a little downtrodden. I wasn't getting what I wanted. I had such high expectations every time – "This one will be it!" I'd think. But invariably, I was disappointed.
I'm still talking about bread.
You'll recall that my first attempt at the Tartine bread making method had me putting the dough in my bathroom to rise in the hopes that the warmer temperature would hasten the process. No luck. My bathroom bread was flat as a Red Velvet Pancake.
On this second attempt I found myself standing over my leaven, contemplating it in distress, much as The Box regards me when I call him and say, "Hey, Dad! I just signed up for another triathlon!!!"
I thought, "What if...what if I just added a little sprinkle. Of yeast. To this here leaven."
So I did. Just a little bit, not a whole package. And then I mixed up my dough and left it alone for 3 hours for the bulk fermentation.
When I say I left it alone, I literally left my apartment. I couldn't stay there and wait for nothing to happen. So I went out and returned about 4 hours later. To my surprise and incredible glee (I let out a squeal which scared the dog), it had risen!
I almost didn't know what to do with myself. I regrouped, and went through the other steps, resulting in a beautiful, risen, light, fluffy, flavorful, crusty on the outside, squishy on the inside (with nice holes to boot) loaf of bread.
I was beside myself with carbohydrate-related joy. My bread even crackled while cooling (something referred to as the Song of the Bread in Tartine).
I'm afraid this is only going to encourage me to keep cheating. With bread.
Now that I had this amazing puffed-up specimen, I had to decide what I was going to do with most of a loaf of flat-ish bread. So I made Peccorino and Herb Croutons with it!
What You Need:
A loaf (or most of a loaf) of stale bread, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/2 cup grated Peccorino cheese (you could also use Parmesan)
3 turns of freshly ground pepper
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
1 tablespoon chopped basil (dried basil actually works well in this case)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large Ziploc bag
*Optional: salt. Peccorino is a very salty cheese, so don't over-salt these guys. Only use extra salt if you really feel like you need to.
What To Do:
Fire up the broiler of your oven and get out a cookie sheet.
Place the cubed bread in the plastic bag and throw everything else in there.
Dump the contents of the bag onto the cookie sheet, and spread out all the little cubes. Toast for a few minutes on one side, then rotate the cubes (OVEN MITTS!!!) so that they brown evenly on all sides.
Eat them immediately in a salad, soup, or like popcorn!
And, yes, I'm still talking about bread.