Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Happiness in a Loaf of Bread

Bread makes itself, by your kindness, with your help,
with imagination streaming through you,
with dough under hand,
you are breadmaking itself,
which is why breadmaking is so fulfilling and rewarding.
-Edward Espe Brown, the Tassajara Bread Book

I took piano lessons from a woman named Fran when I was in elementary school. Fran lived in a really beautiful log house on top of a mountain, designed handmade jewelry, saved her kids' bathwater for watering her plants, and was a great piano player. But the thing I remember the most about Fran is that she baked bread. I remember being absolutely floored by the smell of bread baking in her home. I suppose that's where my romantic ideas about baking bread all began. (by the way, I still know Fran even though I'm talking about her in the past tense...)

During the past few years, my desire to be "a woman who bakes her own bread" really kicked into high gear. I gave it some serious effort...including doing a lot of research about what to do about baking bread at high altitudes (this appears to seriously complicate matters...)

I might have had one successful loaf out of a dozen during the past few years. The problem for me, in most cases, was that the center of the loaf would collapse and WOULD NOT bake through, no matter how long you baked the loaf for. I've since learned that reducing the amount of sugar and yeast in your bread recipe can help with this problem.

I recently learned about the Tassajara Bread Book on Soule Mama's wonderful blog. I had a Barnes & Noble gift card burning a hole in my pocket, and treated myself to a copy after getting the impression that this is the bible of bread baking. Ooh, and it's totally one of those books you just want to slowly savor. The recipes, pictures, and philosophy of bread baking are presented in such a beautiful way.

The past two Saturdays I have spent the first four (!) hours of the day baking bread. It's such a nice, slow, drawn out process, and a perfect way to start the weekend. Two weekends ago it was the standard Tassajara wheat bread.

And it worked! Hallelujah! No sunken center! And what a joy it was to wrap up a loaf in a pretty kitchen towel and ribbon and gift it to a dear friend as a thank you. What better way to show your love than through a loaf of bread? Seriously!

This past Saturday I was at it again, only this time it was the Oatmeal Rye bread. And it was even better! Prettier, moister, and more delicious in every way. Again, the recipe made two loaves...perfect for dinner Sunday night with a pot of sausage lentil soup, and one for gifting/thanking (in this case to my mom).

I truly cannot describe the extreme happiness that I feel when wrapping up a warm loaf of bread for someone I love, or the joy I feel knowing that my honey is having a sandwich for lunch made on thick slices of my bread, or the absolute contentedness I feel when buttering a slice of bread I've worked hard to make, or the utter peace that comes over me when I walk down the stairs of my home to the smell of bread in the oven.


Gratefulmom said...

Your breads look scrumptious! Jason has been reading up on bread making as well. I'll have to tell him about this book! He also wants to learn how to make cheese so it should be good eats around here soon! LOL I am the baker but have never tried breads except for the zucchini, pumpkin and banana type.

Angela said...

while you bake bread, I paint....I'd rather be in your shoes. Your loafs look luscious!!