There’s something about the smell and taste of homemade bread, isn’t there? My mom is amazing with flour. I swear she looks at a bag of the fluffy white stuff and it morphs itself into delectable creations. Rolls. Fried bread. Donuts. Loaves of sandwich bread. You name it, she can make it.And there is nothing like walking into a home and smelling the yeasty goodness of fresh bread.
Now me? I have never been able to make bread. Every time I would try I would fail miserably. My loaves would be small and dense. My rolls would weigh ten pounds each. Nothing light and fluffy here! Even my attempts at using the bread maker were dismal at best. Until suddenly, things changed. You see, I love Pinterest and I kept seeing these recipes for no fail bread. Uh huh. Yeah right. I would tell myself. But I would pin them anyway in hopes that *someday* I would master the baking of bread. Then one day I decided to give it a shot. I pulled on my apron, dusted off the mixer and started tossing things into the bowl. Now this recipe-it was a long one. Not long as in steps so much, but long as in rising time. Like 12 hours. Now if my bread didn’t rise over 12 hours, I was tossing in the towel. I would walk away from this feat of domestication and call it good. Store bought would suffice.
So I measured and mixed. I rolled out and I let sit. And low and behold, the next morning my dough had risen! My husband calls it a miracle. But this one success spurred me on. So I pulled out the trusty cookbook and tried another recipe for French bread. Wonder of wonders, it rose again!! By George, I might be on to something! I talked to my mom and she gave me her version of a recipe (we don’t really believe in the books). A few loaves and blocks of butter (seriously, fresh bread from the oven deserves nothing less than the real deal. No plastic margarine for my slabs of goodness!) it was decided: the curse was lifted! I don’t think my hubby has ever loved me so much. He even said that if we could bottle the smell of fresh from the oven bread, we would make millions. But here’s the problem: it goes FAST. Fresh bread from the oven just doesn’t last (except around my middle).
So I started baking it occasionally as a special treat. But then I got to thinking-my bread is a heck of a lot healthier than the stuff on the shelves. Case in point: When we moved we ate a lot of hamburgers and hot dogs. They were quick and easy and no fuss. Which is good when you’re not sure where the pots and pans are. A couple weeks ago I was sea
rching for something back in the cupboard and I found a bag of hot dog buns. They had been there for awhile. Like (blush) probably a couple of months. But they looked just as they did when I bought them. Not a speck of mold. On the other hand, the last piece of homemade bread that hadn’t been eaten and was only a week old-it was already showing the test of time. No preservatives there. How nasty is that? So I decided, no only do we spend a ridiculous amount of money on bread (I have a small army, remember?) but the stuff is chock full of preservatives and high fructose corn syrup. No one needs that. Not only could my bread save us money, but it’s better for us too. So I’ve started mass producing loaves of bread. It takes a lot more time, but it saves a lot of money. And here’s the thing about homemade bread, it doesn’t just feed your belly, it feeds your soul.
There is something innately home-y about eating the stuff. Maybe it’s knowing that so much time went into it. Maybe it’s the smell and the ambiance of flour floating in the air. Maybe it’s just knowing that your mom was thinking of you as she wiped the counters and prepped the mixer. Or maybe it’s the fact that my family loves it. That as soon as I pull out the cooling racks, the babe starts begging for a piece of bread. Or that my teenager will remark that her sandwich was really good. It makes my heart happy. And I’ve learned that bread is sensitive. If the yeast is too hot, it doesn’t rise. If the weather changes, so do my loaves. If I add in more wheat flour, it becomes more dense. I don’t punch it down like the books say. I don’t roll it out and push it. I let it be. I let it grow. And in my gentleness, it does.
I know this sounds stupid, but it’s the same with my relationships. Especially the kids. The more demanding I am, the more they resist. But the gentleness in me seeps in to them. The reminders of grace and kindness I offer inevitably circle back to me. Granted it’s not perfect. Not every day ends in a cloud of floury bliss in our hearts, but it has changed. Relationships are sensitive, even and perhaps especially those with our children. They need time and care and the chance to rise on their own. And some days it works and I wish I could bottle the happiness in their giggles and sell it. I would make millions.
***Now, who wants a recipe for yummy goodness?***
I use good flour. I prefer either Red Mill unbleached or Great Harvest unbleached. The less processed the grain, the better it is for you.
White Bread (I substitute whole wheat for half of it, for a healthier version. But the white rises better). To start, set your kettle on the stove on high heat. Don’t bring it to a boil, just enough to melt the sugar and oil.
1) Melt 3 TBS sugar and 2 TBS oil (I use coconut) in 1.5 cups of water
2) Add 1.5 cups milk (or buttermilk is better) to cool. Let the mixture get cool to the touch-yeast doesn’t like it hot.
3) Add 3 c white flour and mix
4) Add in salt. About 1.5 tsp and keep the mixer going
5) Add in 2 more cups of flour (I usually use wheat now)
6) Add in another 1 to 1.5 cups flour
7) When it’s all mixed in, turn it out on a floored surface and kneed a bit. Then grease your mixing bowl and settle it back into the bowl.
8) Let it hang out there for about an hour (though you can cut down the time if needed). I let mine rest, covered with a dishtowel, on the oven while it preheats to 375.
9) Split into two bread pans and bake for 30 minutes.
10) Slather with fresh butter and enjoy!!
Honey Oat Bread
According to hubby, this is the best bread I’ve ever made. You do everything the same except:
~Swap the whole wheat flour for oat flour and increase it to 3 cups
~Add in half a cup of honey and 3/4 cups of dry oats.
Seriously, so good!
How about you? Do you have a bread recipe you’d like to share?