Reality Check: I'm Still a Novice
Before I started bread-baking 10 weeks ago, we used to always have excellent hearth bread in the house from one or the other of the wonderful artisan bakeries in the area. But lately, we've been eating my bread, except for the occasional bakery challah or bagels. When I get great bread in a restaurant, I take it as a challenge: someday soon I can do it just like this.
But yesterday at the grocery, I bought some smoked turkey for dinner, and realized my weekend bread is stale. So I bought a loaf of an old standby, Acme's Pain au Levain. It makes me realize how far I have to go before I can bake great bread. It is humbling. Gorgeous to look at. Perfect crust and crumb. And deliciously sour and complex.
After that experience, I needed to bake something sweet to give me courage and determination, and avert a lapse into hopelessness.
Floyd's cream cheese blueberry braid did the trick (http://www.thefreshloaf.com/recipes/blueberrycreamcheesebraid). I used apples instead of berries, and topped it with cinnamon sugar. It is wonderful.
With the other half of the rich dough, I made improvised chocolate-cinnamon-pecan rolls. They were nothing to look at (in fact, I think I'll add them to OWS's "Ugly Loaf" thread), but boy were they delicious. I rolled the dough out and filled it with cinnamon-sugar, chunks of Scharffenberger semi-sweet chocolate and toasted pecans. The dough was too sticky to roll up properly and I overfilled them. I also should have baked at a slighlty lower temperature. But I'd gladly eat ugly pastry with my eyes closed.
Now I am reinvigorated to keep at the quest for great homemade hearth bread.