Tranquilo's Table

Garlic-Herb French Bread

While cruising Mexico aboard Tranquilo, our 32-foot Pearson Vanguard sloop, I learned that there are only two types of bread you can get in a typical small-town: tienda; the appropriately brand-named Bimbo (which is the bland equivalent of Wonder Bread); or bolillos, fresh-baked buns the size of French rolls. Bimbo works on a boat as long as you don’t care about flavor; it lasts for weeks in this humid climate without getting moldy. (Just don’t ask yourself how many preservatives it takes to inhibit mold in the tropics.) Bolillos, on the other hand, are quite tasty when fresh, but they grow mold in about 36 hours, so you can’t really stock up on them for long stays in those dreamy, secluded anchorages that my husband and I like to frequent.

Necessity, being that great and powerfully wise mother of invention that she is, finally led me to teach myself how to bake bread. I’d never even tried it before going to sea; in fact, "at sea" is the last place I ever pictured myself becoming a baker. But the lifestyle lends itself to such pursuits; you’ve got the time for all those risings. The only trouble I found was that bread recipes in most cookbooks are suited for someone with a great big conventional oven, not the 14 x 13 x 10 Force 10 on Tranquilo. Luckily, I had time to experiment.

Here are three tried-and-true bread recipes — two yeast breads and one quick bread — from Tranquilo’s table, suitable for baking aboard even the smallest cruising boat. They are made up of ingredients found locally in Mexico, but available almost anywhere, and they consume only a modest amount of propane, which is of concern to most cruisers. Best of all, baking bread fills a boat with that most comforting of warm aromas, reminiscent of grandmothers and holidays at home. A still-warm loaf complements every meal, right down to the simplest can of heated chili.

Garlic-Herb French Bread

1 Tbsp. dry yeast
1 c. warm water
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 _ tsp. salt
3 c. white flour (or a 2-1 ratio of white to wheat)
2 Tbsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. oregano
4-6 cloves garlic, chopped

Dissolve yeast in water. Add sugar, butter and salt. Stir well. Add 1 c. flour and mix well. Gradually add herbs, garlic, and the remainder of the flour, kneading until it’s no longer sticky, but still elastic in texture. Place in covered, oiled bowl and let rise until doubled.