Fritz’s bread September 5, 2010Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Bread, Wolfe recipe.
It should not be surprising to learn that Nero Wolfe is particular about his bread. He will eat only Fritz’s bread, even in emergencies where he is away from the brownstone – which means he sometimes has to go without. Indeed, Archie notes in The Mother Hunt that if Fritz was to die, Wolfe would probably never eat bread again. I was curious to see just how good this bread was, compared to the sourdough I usually make, and to see if it was indeed as good as Archie implies. I also thought this was a good opportunity to try out the Kitchen Aid and see what it was like using it to make bread.
It was immediately apparent that Fritz’s bread recipe was different than the one I was used to using. To start with, I had to heat some milk until it was almost boiling, and then add sugar, salt and butter. I added yeast to this mixture, after I had first prepared it in some warm water.
I then began to add the flour, adding about half of it and mixing it with the paddle attachment until it came together in a loose dough (incidentally, it is notable that this recipe calls for all purpose flour, rather than bread flour). At that point I added the rest of the flour – and brought out…The Hook…
After about 10 minutes, the dough was smooth and elastic. It was very soft, and its consistency reminded me of the braided bread I made with the lamb filling. I removed the dough to a bowl and drizzled some olive oil over the dough, turning it to ensure it was greased on all sides. I put it in a warm place to let it rise.
The rising process was also different from other bread recipes in that I was required to let the bread rise 3 times – twice in its bowl and once in the tin I was to cook it in. It certainly rose well – I literally punched all the air out of it the first times, and it rose again dramatically after the proofing stage. Here it is after the proofing, just before I put it in the oven.
I slashed the top, and added an egg wash over the top. I baked it in a 200°C oven for about 40 minutes. I think in retrospect I probably overcooked it slightly – the crust turned very brown – but it did look good when it came out of the oven.
After it had cooled, I sliced it open. The first thing I noticed was that the bread was fairly springy but dense at the same time. Indeed, the texture reminded me of a brioche or even an egg-based bread. As for the flavour – I would characterise this as a good bread to use as a base for other things, rather than a bread to eat on its own.
Given Nero Wolfe’s propensity for eating foods such as “ham, corned beef, sturgeon, anchovies, lettuce, radishes, scallions, cucumbers…four kids of cheese, eggs, pickles [and] olives” (The Mother Hunt), I am not surprised that this is his bread of choice. Many of those items – in various combinations – would go very well with this bread. For me, while I like this bread very much, I am pleased to report that if Fritz were to die, I could find other breads to eat with few ill effects.