Columns by Pamela Majteles
Originally published February 18, 2011
Reprinted with permission from Bay Area News Group — East Bay
Nothing seems to be working any more. I’m not referring to our government or the economy. Right now, I’m talking about the sandwich.
The peanut butter and jelly, tuna salad, and hummus are leaking, because of holes I’m finding in bread that I buy at the supermarket. It’s a problem I haven’t encountered before.
While preparing my son’s sandwich, I’m discomfited by the sight of strawberry jelly oozing out holes in the slices of sourdough. It’s got me seriously reconsidering the expression “greatest thing since sliced bread”.
When I first noticed holes, big enough for my finger to go through, in most slices of a new sourdough loaf, I figured that I just bought bum bread. But I continued finding holes in subsequent loaves that I brought home. I came to the conclusion that it was strictly a sourdough problem, and then to my dismay, I discovered I was wrong. Now I’m looking at holey whole wheat.
“What the heck is happening with all these holes?” I asked myself.
It’s the subject of lots of online conversation about bread baking. The holes are a result of the yeast used in bread that causes air bubbles in the dough. Among artisan bakers, holes are highly desirable. “Light-as-air, hole-riddled loaf” writes one baker in lofty praise.
But among novice bakers, it can be a source of frustration. “A ruddy big hole” curses a British baker from her home kitchen. “I have to start all over.”
Of course, none of this explains why I’m recently finding holes in commercial bread from the supermarket. The holes could be unintended mistakes or perhaps commercial bakeries are going for a more artisan look to their breads.
I do know that it’s causing a whole mess of trouble for me. “My hands are so sticky,” wails my son, while holding up his hands streaked with jelly, after eating his sandwich.
Standing in front of the shelves of bread at the supermarket, I deliberate over which one to choose. I’ll grab one loaf and then decide it feels too light, a sure sign of a whole lot of holes. I’ll switch it for another and then another.
At home, I spend time rooting through the bag of bread, searching for slices without holes. It’s like trying to grab a handful of trail mix without nuts or a section of an orange without seeds.
The bottom line is I don’t want holes in my sandwich bread, just as I don’t want holes in my socks. (While I’m at it, the same goes for my pocket, shopping bag, garden hose, and AeroBed mattress.)
What I really want right now is something that works. I’ll settle for something small, such as the sandwich.
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