Avoid those who don’t like bread and children. – Swiss Proverb
“How can a nation be called great if its bread tastes like kleenex?” – Julia Child
“Whether we call it artisanal baking, the craftsmanship of breadmaking, or bread as metaphor, the fact is that making bread can be a path of self-discovery, not because it is unusual but because it is so usual, so common, so normal, and so much an extension of natural laws, that it accurately reflects the unusual, the supernatural, and an uncommon spiritual reality in a world in which what has become accepted as normal is but a caricature of natural order.” Peter Reinhart
Bread is ancient, it is life, it is transformation, it is a journey. This is my story, my journey into bread and beyond.
After moving to a new state and making a radical change from working full time to full time stay at home mom, I was in pursuit of something to occupy my time during the bone chilling months of winter in Wisconsin. Of course it had to be some type of culinary feat, as the previous two years of my life were sorely lacking in the cooking and baking aspects. I considered several options – soup? salads? cookies? – but I had done a winter of soups previously, salads sounded too refrigerated (brrr), and, well, cookies already frequent my dessert plate. Bread, however, was a bit daunting. Yeast? Kneading? Rising times – paired with the schedule of a toddler?! It sounded rather challenging and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to accomplish anything. I had used a bread machine in the past and had fluctuating results with that. How would I ever manage to bake bread from scratch? I decided not to be intimidated and begin the journey. Plus, the anticipation of inhabiting a kitchen resplendent with the aroma of freshly baked bread was a very powerful motivator. Thus, in early December, I took the first steps into the world of bread baking and I haven’t looked back since. I have become more assure of myself and my abilities within this simple yet complex world of flour, yeast, and water, and have boldly and unquestionably taken on the challenge of more demanding recipes as the months progressed. I have learned about the relationship between very simple ingredients and how they can blend to produce a cornucopia of resplendent fare. I have been enlightened about how flexible and forgiving bread can be; how dedication to the process and learning from the dough is so important for the final result; and how, no matter what happens, fresh homemade bread trumps anything from the store. I am humbled and grateful that I have had the opportunity to bake, share, and eat these mouthwatering loaves.
Now I find myself at the end of bread baking season, commonly called winter; spring descending fast upon us. I am left with a freezer stocked with the loaves from my winter baking escapades, the self-confidence to engage in any bread baking venture on a whim, and an ever aging toddler who surprises and delights me every day. Together we have learned the value of following instructions, of carving out the time from life to do the simple things that cause us pleasure, and we are continuing to learn the value of patience, which is so important in both the world of flour, yeast, and water and of life. Fortunately, spring still provides us with some blustery days and I have found a freshly baked treat to be a welcome addition to our week. However, summer and its guaranteed heat and humidity will surely fuel a change. Apart from the necessary hamburger and hot dog buns, I do not foresee a need to heat the kitchen to sweltering temperatures. Please stay tuned for homemade ice creams, popsicles, frozen yogurts, and sorbets – the necessary treats of long, lazy summer days spent in the sun. I’m sure they will be kneaded, and that is what we’re all about.