Dear Crabby,

Since your alter ego is now an accomplished bread baker, I have a bread-baking puzzler for you: My local grocery store has a bakery that consistently underbakes all its bread items.

Sourdough, baguette, focaccia — all are put on the shelf with pale, soft crusts and presumably doughy interiors. My question is, if I buy one of these, can I put it in the oven at home and finish baking it so that it will be edible? What are the rules?

Thanks, Crabby. Your answer could change my life!


Dreamin’ of Carbs

Dear Dreamin’,

“Supermarket bakeries underbake bread” is a fundamental truth.

There are exceptions, sure. But in general supermarket-baked bread tends to be lighter in color and softer in texture than similar loaves from real BAKERY bakeries. Searching online for answers as to why didn’t turn up anything conclusive, but it did establish a couple of prominent theories: first, that supermarket bakeries are concerned with volume and efficiency more than quality control; and second, that supermarkets are meeting demand, that people actually like and want pale, doughy, soft-as-a-pillow bread.

As a newly minted master breadmaker, I am of course appalled by this. It’s a far cry from the bread our country was built on. That bread was so dense and crusty and perfectly baked, Thomas Jefferson was able to kill King George by hurling a loaf of it at his head during the Battle of Concord. Lincoln was there, too. And Roosevelt. They all chowed down on some crusty bread and hearty stew to celebrate. (People will tell you that’s not true, but look it up.)

Anyway — stews, regicide, Lincoln — we’re getting a little far afield here. You had a question, and I’m going to answer it.

Yes. You can further bake store-bought bread at home. It requires low heat and careful attention. It only works on undercooked bread, not bread with flat-out uncooked dough in the middle. And it still won’t be perfect, just better than it was before. Try it at about 300 degrees, and keep checking it every couple of minutes.

Alternately, you can slice it and toast it. Or you can slice it and pan-fry the slices in a little butter. Anything that doesn’t entail just eating the repugnant stuff as is. (Undercooked bread always has such a sweet, weird funk to it. It’s the carbohydrate version of Michael McDonald from The Doobie Brothers.)

The best thing to do, though, is to keep avoiding it and get your bread from one of the small bakeries in Yakima that’s still doing takeout sales. They’re not as convenient as supermarkets, but they don’t require the after-market loaf alterations. And you’ll be supporting local companies at a time when they really need it.

Hope that helps.



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