When I was little, my mother baked all of our bread. We called the airy stuff from the store “plastic bread,” and it’s only good trait was how well it made grilled cheese sandwiches. (My mother NEVER made those, only my older sister, who bought her own Velveeta cheese, specifically for that purpose.) (My mother, with the refrigerator full of havarti, brie, and sharp cheddar, dropped her face into her hands moaning, “Oh where did we go wrong?”) 

Anyway, some breads were baked as “boules,” earthy round loaves baked on a cookie sheet. For sandwich bread, we had heavy, corrugated, army-surplus baking tins, that made long loaves of fragrant, yeasty bread with just a touch of chewy, flaky crust. 

In my young adult years I discovered the Tassajara Bread book, and went all in. Sponge breads, sour doughs, flat breads, you name it–I made it.  I learned the textures and characteristics of different wheat flours, and finally bought a manual wheat grinder so that I could grind and blend my own organic flour. In short, I was a nut.

So, it was a bit of a blow, years later, to learn that I could not tolerate wheat–that gluten intolerance had been the underlying common thread to years of health challenges.

When the pandemic yielded a renewed interest in bread-baking, and in particular, sour dough, my other sister threw down the gauntlet and challenged me to make gluten-free bread. She gave me a sour dough starter. The commercial varieties were either leaden, or loaded with chemicals. I rose to the bait.

Now I’ve been back to baking bread for over a year now–still experimenting, but with mostly good results. But not quite good enough to tempt Rick to make the switch. The flavors were good, he acknowledged, but still too heavy for his tastes. So I started to adjust the recipe–lighter–adding tapioca flour to the mix–and even a little yeast to boost the sourdough. He also mentioned that he didn’t like the size of my bread slices.

The size? I mean, after all, it’s the size that comes out of a bread pan. (Gluten-free breads do not do well as boules.) I looked into that complaint seriously when he pointed out that a slice of my bread would not readily fit into our toaster. What’s up with that? I researched bread pans–metal, glass, whatever, and discovered that modern bread pans are larger than the older ones. Is this part of the American “super-size it” trend? Why then, aren’t the toasters bigger? 

I searched out and purchased two “normal sized” bread pans–it wasn’t easy. There seems to be an oversized bread conspiracy going on here. Today is it. I adjusted the recipe for two loaves of smaller, lighter, (but still with a touch of oaty chewiness) bread. Not that I’ll ever stop experimenting, but I think that we are there.

We shall see.