Baking with Stan

Baking with Stan

I’m back from a week’s vacation in the San Diego area with my wife, her brother, and his wife.  We did a lot of the touristy things, including the zoo, the Midway aircraft carrier tour, watching sunsets from the beach, whale watching, Balboa Park, museums, eating some fabulous Mexican food and seafood, horseback rides, and a vineyard tour/tasting.  Each of us came away with our own set of highlights from the trip but one of the best for me was spending a good chunk of this past Wednesday visiting and baking with Stan Ginsberg at his home.

Prior to leaving on the trip, I had contacted Stan about the possibility of meeting while we in San Diego, thinking that it would be pretty cool just to stop by his warehouse to say hello and chat a bit.  Stan proposed a better option in his reply: how would you like to spend some time baking together? I was happy to accept and, after he addressed his wife Sylvia’s concerns about letting someone they’d never met in person into their home (she is a sensible lady), we agreed that I would drop in at 10-ish Wednesday morning for some baking.  And so I did.

Stan and Sylvia are both outgoing people and we were soon at ease with each other.  Stan had a couple of sponges bubbling for some rye breads that hadn’t been in the test bakes for the new book he is writing.  I need to digress at this point to mention that the slate of 90 recipes that went out to the test bakers is not an exhaustive sampling of the rye bread world.  Stan continues find more breads from a broad range of sources.  It doesn’t hurt that he is fluent in German and able to translate some of what he finds.  He also has a network of friends and acquaintances who can help translate bread formulae from other languages.  So, the three breads we baked Wednesday were possibilities that Stan is considering for inclusion in the book.  One, a filled roll made from a laminated dough, absolutely deserves a place in the book.  And I’d say that the other two are also worthy.  As a matter of fact, I’m still savoring the flavor of the grilled turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich that I had for lunch today made with one of the breads.

As we measured and mixed and shaped and baked, we talked.  We talked a lot; about everything from craft beers (another of Stan’s passions), to how a decline in basic kitchen competence has made a generation of American home cooks fearful of failure, to Chinese cuisine.  We talked about NY Bakers and the trends that Stan is seeing in that business.  We talked about Norm Berg and his influence on ITJB.  We talked about the new book and finding a thematic thread to connect such varied breads made from the same grain.  We talked about the influence of climate and soil on culture and the influence of culture on history.  We talked about how breads, some ancient and some quite recent, spring from the continuing swirl of people moving to different places on the globe.  Stan made sure that we didn’t dehydrate during the working and the visiting, sharing some of his favorite liquid bread from local craft breweries.  (Hint: if you find some Lost Abbey brews in your area, give them a try.)  

Somewhere around 2:00 in the afternoon, with most of the work done and bread cooling or about to come out of the oven, we cleared away the bread-making paraphernalia and Stan set up a lunch consisting of various cheeses and breads and crackers.  It was just the thing to cap a delightful visit and bake session.  The rest of my group came back for me around 3:00 and I regretfully said my goodbyes, leaving with bread in my hand, happy memories in my head, and a smile on my face.

And who wouldn’t smile, after such gracious treatment by such an affable host?  That’s Stan on the left and some of each of the breads we baked on the tray:


Many thanks, Stan, for such a pleasant visit.  


Source: Fresh Loaf