families, Life Talk

Making Bread

I often say that there is only one thing that comes naturally to me (aside from sleeping), and that is writing. Everything else that I attempt in my life I have to work hard at if I want to gain any kind of accomplishment at/with it. Not that I don’t work hard with writing, too, but it is an instinctive kind of hard work – it flows pretty naturally from me.

I have learned in the last few years, however, that the above statement isn’t entirely accurate. Cooking and baking is something else that is fairly natural for me. Again, I have to work at it – I’m a much better cook now than I was seven and a half years ago, just ask my husband – but there is an instinct underneath the work that helps it smoothly along. In fact, most of my cooking failures in the last few years have come from going against my instinct to follow the recipe more exactly. Much of what I’ve learned in the last almost-decade has been to trust my gut when it comes to cooking, not to second-guess myself and doubt myself so much. I am by nature a pretty reserved and cautious person, especially when it comes to my own abilities, so it’s been a long, slow process to come to a place of trusting myself when it comes to anything besides writing!

I love trying new recipes, changing things and adapting them, making them my own. I love discovering food blogs and seeing how the preparation of creation of food entwines in others’ daily lives. Most of all, I love making bread.

Yeast after it has proofed. Watching this process never ceases to amaze me.

My mother made bread. My grandmother made bread. One of my uncles even wrote a song about my grandmother’s bread. Bread-making is one of those things that connects me back to past generations. I don’t know that I’ll ever get over missing my grandmother, but every time I knead a batch of bread dough, I remember her as she was when I was a kid, making bread and setting aside the small loaves as “breadies” just for the kids.

All kneaded, ready for the first rising.

My breadie pans, four little loaves ready for the oven.

We eat homemade bread almost exclusively, except for those weeks when I’m too tired or too busy to make it. It’s not a quick process, certainly, not with two risings at the very least. It’s not for the faint of heart, with the muscles and patience required for kneading the dough. But the rewards are so worth it.

Fresh out of the oven, ready for immediate nomming.

The recipe for the pictured batch of bread (which included two full-size loaves as well as the breadies) is here; the only change I made was to replace two cups of bread flour with two cups of wheat, just because I prefer a greater wheat-to-white ratio. I’ve also, in the past, replaced 1/3 c. of honey with an equal amount of maple syrup, but we’re running low on syrup right now and I don’t want to run out before we make it to a sugarhouse, so I did all honey this time. It makes the most delicious and soft bread ever; a household favorite!

5 thoughts on “Making Bread”

  1. I love your words and your photos in this post, especially about how you see bread making as a link between you and the previous generations of women in your family. I got into (and then out of) the habit of making bread every Sunday and loved the rhythm of it and the feeling of serving my family and myself something that was the product of my own hands. Thanks for the inspiration to reconnect with that routine.

  2. Hi there! I found you through Elizabeth S. Craig's blog.I love to cook too, but I've never been much of a baker (cookies, cakes, sweets). However, baking bread is the exception. It's kitchen therapy. ;) Looking forward to your future posts!

  3. Thank you for such kind words, Kristen. When I was up at my parents' house while my grandmother was in the hospital right at the end, I found myself doing way more baking than even was needed for the all the family coming in, just for the comfort in it, the connection to Grandma, who always took care of her family with soups and breads – as my mother still does. I hope my children grow up with the same sense of me!

  4. Thank you, Tracy! I was never much of a baker, either, until I moved away from home and no longer had my sister to make all those goodies for me (she, incidentally, was never much for cooking until we both moved out and I wasn't doing cooking anymore). Now I've developed more of a knack for baking, too, but I still prefer cooking. I think the only thing that smells better than onion and garlic sizzling together in oil in a pot is the scent of fresh-baked bread!

  5. I love the same thing about baking…the way I feel connected to women all through history, all the way back to the first woman who thought HEY! This is a good idea! (You know it was a woman). I never have any success with my breads, though…now, seeing your pics, I think perhaps I don't proof my yeast the right way?

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