Amelia’s Adventures in the Kitchen

Wednesday visitors to the shop will have made the acquaintance of artist and staffer Amelia Garretson-Persans whose handmade fine art books are unique features of our collection.  Ever industrious and creative, Amelia took home a copy of Secrets of Jesuit Breadmaking by Brother Curry.  Just a few days later she shared some of her experiences.  Baking is only one of Amelia’s many talents.  Contact the shop to order copies of the book.

3/2/09 Challah

Though challah is traditionally a Jewish bread, Brother Rick Curry justifies its presence in his Christian cookbook by explaining that Father Toby Myer, who I have to thank for this recipe, is a Jewish convert.  With that contentious issue settled, I will proceed.

Challah is the first type of bread I ever made, even before I was initiated into the mystic rites of Jesuit breadmaking.  If it turns out it is a terrific crowd-pleaser and a tremendous ego-booster.  With its egg wash and sesame/poppy seed coating it emerges from the oven triumphantly.

When a bread doesn’t turn out, as was the case with my second and third attempts, it can easily be misconstrued as a personal insult to your character and integrity.  This is perhaps the wrong way to approach baking, but when you are confronted with a squat, dead, little loaf after four h ours of labor and anticipation, it can be devastating.

Incredibly though, this tends to happen less and less with the more practice and research you do.  Brother Rick Curry clued me into the problem of starting your yeast in a cold bowl.  As I have been doing most of my baking this winter in a poorly winterized summer bungalow, I took his advice to heart and began heating my ceramic bowl in hot water before beginning.  So far, no more flops…

This challah turned out quite well, despite my persistently spazzy braiding.  I needed a diagram for the first four or five challahs I made, and when I finally decided to lose this crutch, I ended up with a wonky looking bread.  It tasted good, but while it lasted, it functioned as a reminder of my poor visual memory.  Fortunately, good challah only lasts about a day and half.

3/19/09 Brother Andrew’s Pumpernickel Bread

This bread has some weird stuff in it!  I always thought pumpernickel bread was made with pumpernickel flour, but it doesn’t seem to be the case.  I’ve always had a nebulous idea of what pumpernickel was to begin with, and frankly I still do.

The real wild cards in this bread are the one and half tablespoons of cocoa powder and two tablespoons of instant coffee granules, which I ordinarily wouldn’t allow in my home, if not for its hidden location in the back of the baking shelf.

The bread is cooked at a high temperature, mostly for the function of darkening the crust I think.  The result is a sweet, smoky flavor, much akin to store-bought pumpernickel bread…  It makes excellent toast, particularly the type of toast that accompanies a bowl of soup.

3/29/09 Sister Courtney’s Buttermilk Bread

While skimming through my Jesuit Breadmaking book, in a desperate attempt to use up the quickly turning buttermilk, I discover that Brother Rick Curry only has one arm!  Perhaps because I’m not wild about book covers that feature the author in all his or her smiling splendor, I never looked very carefully at it.  In the introduction Brother Curry describes the difficult task of cutting the fifty pound bricks of butter received at the monastery into useable chunks.  He makes  a fleeting remark about how much more difficult this is with only one arm.  No kidding!  I quickly flip back to the cover and am very surprised to see that though his right shoulder is obscured in shadow, there is clearly no arm attached to it.   And I thought kneading was a workout with two arms!

Anyway, Sister Courtney’s bread is a pretty simple bread to make, with virtually no curveballs thrown in.  It makes a sweet, slightly moist loaf, which makes excellent breakfast toast, particularly when it’s smothered in butter and honey.

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1 Response to “Amelia’s Adventures in the Kitchen”


  1. 1 Kathleen April 24, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Thanks for the insights here on some of the recipes in Brother Curry’s book. I love your comment about feeling like it’s a personal insult when a bread doesn’t turn out like we anticipated – so true! It is good to get that disappointment in perspective, and try again. Thank you for sharing your adventures in the kitchen, and inspiring us to engage in our own adventure too.


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