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Making bread and jam - great way to spend a Saturday

Bread and jam. Jam and bread. Terrific combination, even though it was, strictly speaking, marmalade.

Kevin West, author of "Saving the Season," and Jospeh Shuldiner, author of "Pure Vegan," put their talents together for several hours for a class offered by the produce recovery organization Food Forward on making just those two items: a marmalade of lemons and blood oranges, and a boule in the no-knead style meant to be easy enough for making bread all the time -- if not every day, as my grandmother did.

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Shuldiner also is the person behind the Institute of Domestic Technology, which runs classes to teach kitchen self-reliance, and organizer of the Altadena farmers market. And West's preserves are for sale at Grand Central Market's new cheese stand. On Saturday, about a dozen of us, my younger son and myself included, gathered at the Zane Grey Estate Mariposa Creamery in Altadena, watched through the windows by the goats outside the kitchen that once was Grey's darkroom. Shuldiner and West share a passion for food and cooking, West since a childhood in Tennessee, Shuldiner getting his later in life.

Teachers have recently been trying to persuade home cooks to weigh their ingredients rather than use cups and spoons. We got a lesson in why as we started to make bread. We each measured the 3 3/4 cup flour called for and then weighed what we'd measured. No two were the same, and the totals varied by as much as 50 grams. The bonus was that with a digital scale, you can just keep adding the ingredients to the bowl -- and end up with one item to wash later.

We learned the popular and easy long-rise, no-knead style of making bread, using a recipe from Shuldiner's book, which has the advantage of putting up with novices' imprecise and unpracticed hands. The no-knead bread was made popular by a New York baker named Jim Lahey from Sullivan Street Bakery.

"We tried to abuse this recipe as much as we could -- even leaving it in the frig for two days," Shuldiner said. It still worked. It can be destroyed, however. If you forget to bake it in time after the second, two-hour rise, it will come out of the oven like "'60s commune bread," Shuldiner said, and that's no compliment. Once you've got all the items organized, the bread takes about five minutes of active time and 21 hours of resting and rising.

And now for the topping: West had us use peelers to take the zest from the fruit, then cut off the pith to discard and chop up the fruit. Boiled to rid it of bitterness, we then added sugar to the fruit and zest and boiled some more until the mixture began to gel.

West brought two gorgeous copper jam pots, which are used because they're shallow and wide, providing the largest surface area for water to evaporate. You can of course use a stock pot if you don't have a small fortune to invest in copper pots. Marmalade, he said, is the most durable of preserves, and one jar was found to be edible after 80 years. We canned our preserves using a hot water bath, and ate every drop of the leftovers. That recipe was from West's book and was called Time to Kill Marmalade.

It certainly made a difference that our fruit was full of flavor to start, the blood oranges coming from JJ's Lone Daughter Ranch in Redlands.

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Twitter: @mmacvean

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