28 January 2008

Baking Bread

 When I was a child, my mother baked our bread.  Every couple few days, mom would set out her bread bowl, her yeast bowl, her bread pans, her quart mayo jar.  She would clear the table of other items and lay out her bread towels and her bread racks in preparation.  Then she would assemble her ingredients; cannisters of flour, sugar, salt, and butter and cakes of yeast.  Mom would wash her hands and don her apron and direct me to do so as well.

I never helped with the bread, but I made cakes while she let the bread rise.  That way the oven was nice and toasty and the kitchen was warm enough to nurture the rising dough.  And it made sense to actually use the oven while it was fired up anyway.  My mother enforced my own sense of frugality and practicality, over wasteful frippery.

She never used a recipe that I remember.  She mixes and measures, based more on consistency, texture, and feel of the dough.  She took her time and encouraged me to do the same.  Mom would say that the bread will be ready when it is ready and that rushing it according to timed recipes simply wouldn't do, it just wouldn't.

So, when she showed me last November how to bake bread, I jotted notes.  My own bread books and many recipes online were very intimidating and overwhelmed me.  Mom set me at ease, she encouraged me to enjoy the process, to slow down and notice when the dough was ready versus when the clock said that it should be.  In that way, bread baking is much like a baby gestating; you could go by the clock, or you could relax and let it come along when it comes along.  I know that is an over simplification of sorts, but I think you get the idea.

So what follows in the next entry is my explanation based on the jottings and my own experiences in the past two months of baking bread.  I've yet to use a recipe and the bread is wonderful, every time.  Don't be afraid to experiment.  Each batch will be slightly different, in part due to the variability of your kitchen's humidity and temperature.  In part, even the barometric pressure of your environment has an effect on your bread.  And in part, your own attitude, your own temperament, and your own ratios of flour to water to yeast to any other ingredient you toss in matters.

Take your time, enjoy the process, and read on.

1 comment:

  1. My mouth is watering here Deb ... your mother's method was my mother's method and if I were to regret not learning something from her, baking bread would be one thing ... her pizza the next and sewing the third!  


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