Bread on the Table (Issue 769)

In which we are reminded that even short call plans help us produce better results than no plans at all.

Sourdough bread – fresh sourdough bread – is one of my passions in life. Nashoba Brook Bakery in West Concord, MA is my local favorite. Boudin, from San Francisco, is a close second favorite.

One of my favorite applications of sour dough bread is French Toast – thickish slices of fresh sourdough bread dipped in egg batter, fried in butter until golden brown, and drizzled with Grade A Light Amber maple syrup. So I can vary the thickness of slices for different family members, I prefer to cut my own slices from a round boulet loaf rather than to have the slices machine-cut.

The challenge with this approach is to cut the surfaces of the bread evenly so that, when the bread is frying in the butter (antique iron frying pan, by the way), the entire surface of the bread is flat on the bottom of the pan. Until recently, I used a long (14”) bread knife and I would cut the slices from top to bottom of the loaf.

The resulting bread slice surfaces would be evenly flat, but the slices were almost always shallow “V” shapes – thicker at the top than at the bottom. They cooked unevenly and didn’t look great. I’d throw many of them out.

Until I had an idea.

I learned that, if I first etched a “cutting line” on the top of the bread from edge to edge of the boulet, and then sawed up and down from the top of the bread to the bottom (rather than across the loaf) following the cutting line, I could produce even slices – even thickness, flat frying surfaces. Your results may vary. This worked for me.

The major breakthrough, obvious, perhaps, is the cutting line or guide. Etching the guide doesn’t take long (3 – 4 seconds). As long as the guide is etched evenly, I can focus on one thing… sawing up and down… to get a better result than I was getting cutting without the guide.

While I’d need a different cutting guide and tools if I were cutting a ten pound boulet (think “enterprise sale”) than if I were cutting a standard size one-pound boulet (think small business), without the guide, we tend to get uneven results and we waste some “slices.” And nobody likes to throw bread away.

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