Friday, January 18, 2008

homemade goodness

How do you top a post about snoring?! eww.

Ever smell the intoxicating smell of fresh baked bread? When I lived at home, my dad would sometimes make this wonderful treat for us. He grew up with a mother that always made their own bread and often served fresh bread as part of the main dish for their meals. I remember watching my dad knead the dough, and snitching tiny bites while it was rising. Later when I was older, bread machines became the rage and my mom was blessed with one for Christmas one year. Fresh bread became a regular occurrence in our home. There's nothing like sitting down to a still warm loaf and filling up on hot buttered bread.

I've been wanting to try my hand at baking my own bread for several months. Commercial bread-good bread anyway- has gotten so costly for us to buy as it usually goes stale before we use a whole loaf. We're not big bread eaters. An occasional sandwich or toast jag will strike for a week or two, but passes just as quickly as it arrived. I have been gathering my ingredients for several months. First it was yeast, then whole wheat flour and gluten, followed by unbleached bread flower. I've looked at recipes and dreamed of the hot fresh bread that would come out of my oven. This I knew we would eat. Yesterday I finally took the plunge. I needed something to keep my occupied-too many things to think about. It was cold and snowy. A perfect day for homemade soup-which I perfected long, long ago- and what could taste better with hot, vegetable beef soup than bread? The time had finally come. I was going to just do it.

First I collected my recipe. I carefully selected a white bread recipe as I know that whole wheat or whole grains are harder to rise and need added ingredients like gluten. I read and followed my recipe and enjoyed the aroma of the yeasty mixture. Then I kneaded and kneaded and thought about my own father and grandmother who kneaded by hand so long ago. Yes, I have a mixer that would have done the job, but I wanted the full experience. I even got to sneak a few bites while waiting for it to rise. Finally the time came to pop the loaves in the oven and wait. Within no time the smell I have such fond memories of came wafting out of my own oven. After 25 minutes I pulled them out and gave them a thump-nice and hollow. They were done. The butter was rubbed all over the crust (which makes it tender instead of hard) and we waited for it to be cool enough to slice. I timed it perfectly. The soup and the freshly baked bread were ready at the same time and we dined like the peasants we are. DELICIOUS! We ate most of the first loaf. Next time, I'll add a bit more sugar and salt (the recipe didn't call for enough) but there definitely will be a next time.