Sabbath at the Spectrum Café: Baking Bread Worth Breaking


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Now a seasoned baker, Marcus Heisler remembers his first loaf of bread: “It looked like it had warts.” The basic white bread recipe may have been specific to bread machines, but not for Heisler’s appliance that he and his college roommate, Kirk Baker, had picked up on a whim at a yard sale. Seeing the machine’s condition, a friend offered them a backup bread maker, which they accepted.

Together, the two bread machines were the foundation for the friends’ bread “factory.” At first, it only catered their breaks from late-night study sessions at Canadian University College. “It was a bonding moment,” Heisler says. He would slice a few pieces off their favorite rosemary bread (easy to prepare, the results improved after the first attempt), open bottles of olive oil and vinegar for a simple vinaigrette, and dip bread together with Baker.

“It’s sort of primitive, a little vulnerable,” muses Heisler. “Perhaps it’s the nature of dipping bread with your fingers into the same bowl of oil, with the oil on your fingers all over the place, no computers or phones getting in the way.” He adds, “We could share anything, conversation wise—about girls, life—and not feel judged.”

After adjusting to the bread machine’s eccentricities, the roommates began turning out loaves more frequently, and the unexpected aroma of freshly baked bread began diffusing throughout their dorm. The arrival of other male students, and the jealousy of the girls in the other wing, prompted the friends to begin selling bread to both genders, with a small profit margin. (Two of CUC’s residence halls are co-gender; male students and female students live in separate wings, and share the center space for common use.)

“This [was] the very beginning of our loafing around in college,” says Heisler, who graduated summa cum laude in 2010. When he was accepted by Loma Linda University School of Medicine, and moved in with new roommates, the original bread machine joined them, as did Heisler’s optimistic plans to bake bread instead of purchasing it. However, after only three or four loaves got made during his first year in medical school , the bread machine visited his parents’ closet for a year. Now in his third year of medical school, the bread maker has returned to Heisler’s countertop, along with renewed interest in baking. It again facilitates fresh loaves and conversation.

Baking bread has become a Friday evening tradition, a Sabbath rest. “It’s an end-of-the-week celebration,” Heisler says. He is thinking of trying cinnamon rolls next.

It is time to get a new appliance, he says. “The sides of the inside pan are supposed to be nonstick, but now have many scrapes on the inside, scratches from where I had to use improvised birthing tools to extract the loaf. We’ve performed C-sections to get the pan out,” he adds, in the natural language of a student doing medical rotations.

Marcus Heisler is a third-year medical student at Loma Linda University. When he's not baking or studying for an upcoming exam, he can be found rock climbing or Skyping with his girlfriend in Canada.

Photo: Jo’s Rosemary Bread, by betsyjean79, at allrecipes.com.

This week’s recipe for Jo’s Rosemary Bread from allrecipes.com is Marcus Heisler’s favorite bread recipe. He suggests that offering visitors loaves of this bread may have helped him and his college roommate win a “best dorm room” contest.

Jo’s Rosemary Bread

Prep time: Varies (depending on individual bread machine) Makes: 1 ½ lb loaf

Ingredients

1 c water 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 1 ½ tsp. white sugar 1 ½ tsp. salt ¼ tsp. Italian seasoning ¼ tsp. ground black pepper 1 tbsp. dried rosemary 2 ½ c bread flour 1 ½ tsp. active dry yeast

Directions

1. Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select white bread cycle; press start.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5265