Blessed

Most days, making bread happens by rote, with a tight schedule of measuring, mixing, shaping, and baking. My mind can be tranquil while my hands are a blur, punching and kneading the dough. Or slicing off chunks with the bench knife, balancing them on the weigh scale, and turning them into sensuous rounds.

Not much distracts me from this sort of reverie.… Continue reading

Filling the Belly

Brother Francis surveys the daily bread fresh from the ovens. What’s the story, here?

It’s easy to make bread!

You know the drill: flour, water, salt, yeast. Mix it into a nice dough, let it proof, and throw it in the oven. You don’t really need a recipe if you’ve made it a few times.

You can be sure that that amorphous mass in the bowl or dough trough will undergo a divine transformation.… Continue reading

A Pinch of Salt, A Pinch of Life

In February, I purchased four 10 kg bags of “fine grey sea salt” for Happy Monk bread production. That’s eighty-eight pounds of beautiful salt harvested off the west coast of France.

Don’t worry. Your Happy Monk loaves aren’t going to get saltier. They’ll taste the same as ever. I’ve been using this brand, Maison Orphée, for nearly three years; I got a reasonable price on this batch, and it will last well into next year.… Continue reading

Henry Miller and The Staff of Life

“What do I find wrong with America? Everything. I begin at the beginning, the staff of life: bread. If the bread is bad, the whole life is bad.”

from The Intimate Henry Miller, by Henry Miller, Signet, 1959

In his scathing essay, “The Staff of Life,” Henry Miller suggests that bread, and the way it is consumed, is the primary measure of a country’s “goodness,” or at least of its citizenry.… Continue reading