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Baking Bread

Posted Jan 23 2013 12:00am

When I was in junior high, my favorite class was called Home Ec. I took those classes all the way through high school because I loved to cook and bake. Not so much for the sewing aspect of it - I dislike sewing, although I'm fiercely envious of those who can sew. Every once in a while, I get a wild hair and think to myself, "You can make that."

And, I get to see that, no, I cannot. FAIL.

I also was never big on the "design" or "Home Interior decorating" aspect of those classes. For real. Slap some paint on the walls, put up your pictures and let's get on with life.

My house looks good in spite of me, not because of me.

I loved the Childhood Education segment. I always felt most at home with babies and children and at one point, thought I might be a childcare director. OH. HAHAHAHAHAAAA. Life is super funny.

But cooking and baking - now, that's my deal.

I was reflecting on this over the weekend. My mom and my younger boy made bread together, and watching them reminded me of the lessons that I'd learned so many years ago.

Yeast is a friendly sort. It loves warmth, sugar and salt - but hates heat. Bread dough loves to be oiled and massaged. Allow the dough to rest in order to form the gluten - cover it with a warm cloth and allow it to nap for an hour or so.

I mean - who among us doesn't want to be warm, oiled, massaged, allowed to nap and left alone?

I love to make bread. I have a bread machine, but I rarely use it - maybe twice a year. There's one particular bread dough recipe that I use to make rolls for the holidays that is best if it's done in a bread machine. Every other bread recipe, I do by hand. Completely by hand. I'm not sure why - it's not like I think I can do it better. It's not that I think I have "magic hands" or anything.

I just like to do it. The measuring, the mixing, the proofing. Covering the bowl with a warm wet cloth - a little trick that my mom showed me, I think  - and then coming back to a most magical sight - the dough mounding over the top of the bowl.

Then, the punch down part. Depending upon how frustrating a day it's been, that punch down part might be the best part of a day. The kneading, the second rise, sliding the formed loaves into the oven.

And then, of course, the scent of the baking bread and the taste of it, warm and buttered.

I make bread often. Maybe every week I'll make a few loaves - English muffin bread, white bread, rolls, sourdough or beer bread. It doesn't really matter what type of bread, for everyone here eats it all.

I love making bread.

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