Coping: The $215 Loaf of Bread Adventure

My late father started baking bread when he was in his 60’s, so it’s now time for me to again get serious about taking up a family tradition.  Something that fits with fall.

I’m going to make another $215 dollar loaf of bread this weekend.

I know….how can you spend $215 on a single loaf of bread?  Easy in the Ure family.  In fact, I have plans for a $463 loaf, too.

(Continues below)


Before we empty-out the checkbook, let’s talk a bit about bread.

My dad’s specialty was a recipe for Cuban Bread that appeared in the old Wall St. Journal publication called the National Observer.  Unlike the more manic mainstreams of the day, the Observer had what we really liked in our family:  News that someone had a) taken the time to report on and b) then put it into a useful context.

For example, I remember a great series on the morality of trying to feed all the poor people of the world.  The problem, well-articulated in the article – was “If you feed, they will breed.”  Well, now we’ve been there.

Without going into the 3-day conference on the morality of that issue, and resource depletion and such, it was not only solid journalism (missing in action for the past few decades except in places like the Christian Science Monitor) but it was coupled to brain cells.

It was while reading one of their food columns that pappy came across the Cuban Bread recipe.

What set his bread apart from store-bought bread was his study of James Beard’s food cookery jots.  He discovered the key thing to getting a perfect loaf was to use stream – and lots of it – during the initial part of the baking process.

The only Seattle bakery that came close was Gai’s Bakery…it’s “outside man” passed away a dozens years back.

Don’t know if you realize it, but you can now buy a counter-top steam and convection oven for the home.  See the Cuisinart Steam & Convection Oven, Stainless Steel. but be sitting on your wallet when you look because its about $248-bucks.

Ah, this is how I get to the absurdly expensive loaf.

But let’s start with the $215-dollar loaf.  The main cost item will be a big, serious mixer.  We opted for the KitchenAid K45SSOB 4.5-Quart Classic Series Stand Mixer, Onyx Black which was only $200-bucks.  Make sure it still comes with the whisk and the dough hook.

A ten pound bag of flour is another necessity, along with a half-dozen packets of dry yeast, a bit of sugar (long discussions can focus on just this one point of proofing) and water plus (depending on tastes) milk, whipping cream, or butter for a super moist loaf.

French. or in our case Cuban Bread, is a bit cranky when comes to cooking.  You can’t toss it like a pizza on a heated rack (sprayed with lecithin/Pam spray).  And if you cook it in a straight loaf pan, the sides are usually just plain wrong.  So you’ll need something like the Chicago Metallic Commercial II Non-Stick Perforated French Bread Pan which will account for the last $15-bucks.

Of course, if you’re planning to do a lot of baking, a jug of Carlo Rossi Paisano is useful for the cook, too.

Weather should be just right.  I like days after we’ve had some rain (we had an inch on Wednesday) because the atmosphere isn’t too dry.  Yeast likes warm and moist.  Earlier this week, the forecast was calling for Saturday to be 83 with showers and 80 percent humidity at baking time.  It doesn’t get better for yeastie-beasties.

We’ll gloss over the Gold Medal versus King Arthur argument on flour.

The main difference between a French and Cuban Bread is that the island version of a loaf has a teaspoon of sugar in it along with a tablespoon of butter (or whatever you want to call shortening – but we don’t do lard).

Most Cuban Breads simply raise once (artisan of lazy bread) or twice (yummm…) and then the top is “slashed with a palmetto leaf.”  Screw that…a sharp bread knife works fine.

Where the major difference (and contribution pappy made to the art of loafing, so to speak) was in the application of steam.  To do a French bread nice and crusty, you put the loaves in the oven on the next to high rack (warm up there) and in the middle or lower part of the oven you put a large pan that you let get hotter than blazes.

Into this, a minute or two before popping the loaves in to cook, you pour boiling water.  Enough so it will take about 15-minutes to evaporate off (as steam) during cooking.

When you do this to a Cuban Bread, you get a creamier center and still maintain the crispiness of the French crust.

The way commercial kitchens get this kind of a loaf is the use of a BIG steam oven.  However, they ain’t cheap!  The Cuisinart unit may be on Santa’s list this year.

It’s also worth nothing that I plan to do a few experiments this fall using our prepper oven because it’s fired by propane.  And we all know the reason gas stoves turn out better baked goods is what?  The moisture from the gas flame, of course!

Since we have in our prepping stores a Camp Chef Camping Outdoor Oven with 2 Burner Camping Stove (another $200 bill) I might set that up the bread making and do the whole thing outside.  (This works out to a different way to bake a $463 dollar loaf by the time you get the 20 pound propane tank and fill it.)

If my sleazy salesman skills are still dialed-in, I’ll make a couple of large loafs and then make some rounds for dinner.  The sleazy salesman part is where between now and Saturday morning where I’ll be begging and cajoling Elaine to make her delicious clam chowder.

There are few things better than a good crusty loaf, cooled for an hour, and then it’s top cut off.  You scoop out the still-warm center with a spoon and put just enough butter on it to cause the medic units to be go on standby.

Then, ladle in a solid bowlful of clam chowder.  Toss in the finishing shot of sherry (or whatever’s handy) and feast on.  Eating the balance of the loaf bowl to finish.  More butter is allowed.

If she doesn’t fall for it, pan-seared filet medallions in a green peppercorn sauce on fresh slices works, too.

We’ll confess it’s not traditional Texas cooking, but then again our tastes have always been “location independent.”

And the best news of all?  The price of such fine bread is way cheaper for the second loaf.  Flour and fuel, depending on whether you culture your own starter…but that leads us to the Sunday breakfast discussion about sourdough starters.  And we both have work to do.

Write when you lose 10 pounds,

20 thoughts on “Coping: The $215 Loaf of Bread Adventure”

  1. I have the pan in the oven while it’s warming up. Put the boiling water in it when the bread is ready to go in. Then right after you put the bread in, but before you close the door, spray water on the sides of the oven. Works for me and my Vienna bread.


      • Yep. Gets you some immediate steam while the pan of boiling water gets working. Just don’t overdo the spraying. Don’t want the temp to drop too much.

    • I totally plan on building a clay oven.. best bread you will ever eat.. rich smokey taste with fresh butter on it..

  2. I traveled a lot, and I don’t remember a spread like this out of Madagascar before:

    Airline travel will make the next world plague a very rapid one. It will not take years to cover the world. Just keep an eye on it, because it is on the other side of the planet and hitting poor countries – unlikely to be an issue until the government or media need it to scare folks. Unless it gets traction and spreads out of the dark continent.

    • Isnt it interesting how so many of these diseases start in Africa or near it on islands? As though nature said lets test it here first.

      AIDS came from Africa. Ive always believed it came from a test tube first.

      • The article says this is a variant of the original flea-borne “Black Death”. If it stays flea-borne, then most folks know how to combat that.

        My sole worry is that it moves via airlines and containment isn’t as fast as it ought to be. Because we all know how smart and helpful the CDC really is.

      • Bed bugs get on planes, so do snakes, and spiders, so it is just a matter of time before fleas hop a ride.

        Mary Summer Rain predicted the return of the plague in her books in 1984. Read “Spirit Song” and “Phoenix Rising.”


      History is deep with them.. like flinging bodies with the black plague over to the enemy via catapult or giving blankets with small pox..
      Many of the official documents are no longer available to most of us to read. they vanish as fast as the ones for the mad cow disease.
      do your research and decide for yourself .use the w’s to figure out your decisions on what you find. who what when where and why.
      then question I always had was.. how did a devastating disease like this get spread among a third of the population of a whole country in less than two years?.
      Theories have that many of these diseases are created from natural diseases and kept as biological weapons for future use.
      back in the early eighties I worked in trade day labor for some equipment with a gentleman anyway one of my jobs was to clean a clean unit.
      pilots would land and then go through the unit to wash the bio agents off of them through three stages of the unit.. my job was to clean the clean unit afterwards of that nasty powder that clung to everything that stung like hell..
      the story I was told was that they sprayed that to see how the upper atmospheric winds would take the agent.
      then track it by admissions into the hospital and doctors offices for people reporting sick from it.
      In my opinion The problem with diseases so devastating is control control is an illusion no one has control of anything..
      if Aids was used as an experiment in my opinion it was a failure just like the Tuskegee experiment.
      It got away from them. similar idea was that the majority of people receiving food stamps have to be on drugs.. a test was required out of all of them they discovered 1.. the same with syphilis the thought was it would only affect a small portion of the test subjects.
      of course all of this is my opinion derived from articles I have read. read up study then decide for yourself what is real and what is made up.. propaganda moves in both directions as well.. and there was a spread of disinformation by them on aids

      • I knew a woman who lived in San Francisco back in the 70s and 80s. She worked in a laboratory investigating communicable disease. She told me all the first AIDS patients had participated in the Hepatitis vaccine trials in the late 70s. The first reported cases of AIDS were all gay makes in NYC and San Francisco in 1979. Gay males were coming down with Karposi Sarcoma at alarming rates. Back then AIDS was called GRID. The advent of AIDS corresponded with the rise of the Evangelical moral majority lobby, which also corresponded with the huge influence evangelicals had in politics back then. Things that make you go hhhhmmmm? Now we have Identity politics in place religious moral absolutist politics. The new identity (minority) political class doesn’t have access to government laboratory’s like Fort Deyrick, like the moral majority types did. Just saying….

  3. Ok.. my question of the day..

    Are you going to share his recipe?

    besides gardening.. I love to cook..

  4. One of my many hats was to handle supplies in a bakery.. at two am.. the fresh bread would be coming out to go into the slicer for the next days sales.. I would take a stick of fresh cream butter to the line and have them stick it on one of the loaves then slice it.. yumm.. god.. still waiting to see the recipe from grandpa Ure..
    I use brewers fast acting yeast when I bake.. I made wild yeast once.. it worked pretty good but not the same.. now when I make my beer I save the yeast cake ..

  5. I will never forget a camping trip we made when I was a boy my father forgot to pack the camp oven.
    My mom was miffed but good.. then she took us little kids and had us help her.. she made a form out of sticks then wove sticks around it.. put long grass on the outside of it.. then had us kids make mud out of some clay that she had dug up.. my sister and I had a blast packing this thing with it.. quite thick.. afterwards she let it dry then after it started to crack a little bit we put more clay on it.. to fill it in.. then she started a fire.. had a rock for the door.. it was so much fun.. and then she made bread.. oh my god.. I was little and still remember the bread she baked after she scraped the coals out of it.. I have thought many times making one for the patio for baking..the only reason I haven’t is because of the weight.. then I seen a grill at the store and had an idea.. that grill is pretty much like that mud oven my mom made.,..

  6. Both Gold Medal and King Arthur are NON-Bromated flours….which is VERY important! Here is a good article about this topic:

    Also, now that you know that you have Flouride in your water supply and potassium bromate (KBrO3)in your bread/pastry products, there are small steps you can take to remove them from your life. These two flour producers AND Big Berkey Water Filters for starters; JUST DO IT!

    You will find that your thyroid gland issues, depression, hair loss, weight gain, fatigue and many other reasons to get medications from your doctor via big pharma will disappear!

  7. George, one thing I always remember when making bread, was advice from Ed Brown (Tassajara Bread Book); that a loaf will come out one way one time, and come out another way another time, but neither time is wrong. Of course a cookbook from the Zen Mountain Center has a WAY different equipment list!

    • FWIW, Elaine makes the point that the machinery is totally unnecessary. She refers to her grandmother’s kneading dough until it was “squeaky” – I’m just a) lazier or b) more time-efficient than that, lol

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