Sunday, September 18, 2011

More baking...

Today I was baking again. This time I made bread.  I really like making bread.  There is something so comforting, simple and 'real' about baking bread.  To me nothing in this world will ever compare to the smell of a house where bread is being made.  It is beyond description, so I won't try.  If you've never made bread (and I DON'T mean with a bread machine), I recommend it highly.  I find when I'm making bread I immerse myself in the process and it is an excellent way, for me at least, to relieve tension and find a little bit of balance.  I feel pretty good tonight, and part of that I'd like to think has to do with my domestic activities today.  I like working on my home.  Baking cookies & bread; doing laundry; sewing.  These are all things that focus on the place I live, which is part of my core and when I care for and enjoy my 'nest', I find a little bit of peace and relief. 

I've been making bread since I was a child (many long years ago).  I've always enjoyed the process and am firmly committed to anti-bread machine methods.  Bread machines take out some of the most fulfilling and unique parts of this process that I refuse to skip.  I really enjoy mixing the yeast and watching it bubble, (science is cool.)  I especially love kneading the dough.  When I've had a tough day, that is a great alternative to breaking something.  (Not that I would, say, break off a cup holder in my car in a fit of temper or maybe break a vase.  Who does that?)  Anyway, I remember distinctly the first time I made bread.  It was 2nd grade and we made bread around Thanksgiving time.  Our teacher helped us shape the pieces into a Teddy Bear.  I can still see him in my head, all shiny and smiling.  That was also the first time I made real butter from whipping cream.  I'm proud to say these are both traditions that I have myself carried on as a teacher and in a few weeks we'll be doing both of those activities with our Preschoolers.  I love tradition.  I'm always told I get my baking skills and love for the process from my Loma. (She was, in simple terms, my great grandmother.  Its way more complicated that than, but that's a story for another time.)  She was a master baker and my family likes to tell me I'm channeling her when I'm baking.  I am pretty good at it too, if I say so myself. 

So, tonight I'm reveling in my baking and enjoying the fact that summer is coming to a close.  It wasn't stifling to have the oven on all afternoon.  Now I have 2 loaves of bread.  One is for me and the other I believe I'll pass along to a friend who might need a little pick me up.  I hope she and her family enjoy it as much as I do.  For now though, enjoy my photos of part of my bread making process and imagine, if you can, the glorious scent filling my house and my heart tonight with home baked loveliness.

Yeast, sugar and almond milk 'fermenting.'  I love watching the bubbles rise!  By the way, this is, of course, a Vegan recipe.  You would never know the difference.

The first rising.  I have this bowl, that frankly I don't usually use for anything else.  It is a Pyrex bowl, and it is purple.  I love it for the Pyrex glass and it is huge!  Its a perfect bowl for this.
After the first rising, ready to knead and roll out.

The first recipes I used were from the Betty Crocker Cookbook.  I'm sure the edition was a 1970s version, as my Mother got it when she got married.  I would love to have my own copy of that edition.  My new edition sucks.  The recipes are changed and it is just awful.  In the bread recipe they walk you through forming the dough into a loaf.  First, as in this picture, you roll it out into a large rectangle. 
Then you roll up the dough.

Until it looks like this.
Finally you tuck the ends under...

and put it in your greased bread pans.  I bought these glass bread pans about a year ago and LOVE them.  My other pans were much more shallow and wide.  These are deep and narrow.  Perfect for home made bread.
I usually use one  of my pretty napkins to cover the bread during the risings.  It adds a little flare to the process.

After the second rising.  Isn't that beautiful?!

And 30 minutes later, beautiful, if not perfectly shaped, loaves of bread.  All the effort, clean up and time was SO worth it!
One of my current favorite things about making my own bread is that I can slice it super thin.  I have trouble with bread as the density is not easy to get down my damaged esophagus, and being able to make it really thin helps a lot.

No, this has nothing to do directly with my baking.  But, when I went to take the garbage out to the garbage can, I was this little guy crawling on the shingles on the back of my house.  Of course I had to snap a few photos!


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