For many years, our families have adjusted the celebration of holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas to allow for the fact that we are never around at those times. This is incredibly kind of them and it turns inside out what could have been an ideal opportunity for them not to have the discomfort of "gay" at their table or by the festive tree.
This year, I decided to be helpful, given my domestic loungesse, and announced that I would bake the bread for our Friday early Thanksgiving at the home of C's mother.
If it was bread for us, I'd have been more exotic and spicy in my choice of what to make, but when baking for a variety of tastes, ages and teeth, I take the hand of culinary caution as I enter the kitchen.
After consulting a number of my dusty cookbooks and searching the web for multi-grain recipes, I was tipped off that Hodgson Mill puts out a fine boxed bread mix that doesn't really save you any time but guarantees a savory while broadly tested and acclaimed flavor. I chose their nine grain mix and also their European cheese and herb mix.
I still had to proof the yeast, which, like riding a bike, came back to me after all these store-bought years. I had almost forgotten what "luke warm" water from the faucet should really feel like on the fingers. Suddenly, I saw myself remembering to heat the bowl with hot water before pouring the water, pinch of sugar and yeast into it. I watched it foam up like alchemist's gold. I cut the butter into the flour mixture with a fork just like my grandmother used to do (while muttering about how none of her twelve children cared enough about her).
And then, that sense of elasticity in the dough as you knead it, adding some of the conserved flour mix to keep it from sticking to your hands. Letting it rise covered with a damp dish towel next to a mug of hot water in the warming drawer under the oven. Punching it down and letting it rise again before the baking.
C's family is fond of dinner rolls so I made sure to produce some. They look OK. I suppose I ought to try one to make sure they're done. I tapped the loaf on the bottom. It sounds right. Hope they like it.
Speaking as a guy who had a sourdough starter on his counter for three years without missing a feeding, I find bread making to be nirvana. King Arthur has a very fine baking cookbook, that I adore, should you decide to do this ritual on a more regular basis. From creating a sponge, a starter, or simply yeast and water, this book has it all. I find the whole process relaxing, and kneading is a great way to work out a foul mood. Nothing beats the smell of a yeast bread as it is taken fresh from the oven (except sourdough). Enjoy your Holiday dinner.
Enjoy the holidays and the bread baking. I agree with Tater, there is something incredibly therapeutic about making bread.
oh i love this post! i can almost smell that gorgeous loaf sitting here at my desk.
i love to bake bread and almost never do so. it is absolutely a nostalgic process, having grown up with homebaked bread being the primary loaf until i was about 9 or so. the farm people in my family baked bread every day. every. day. always a fresh loaf on the table.
my favorite now is a dark rye loaf rich with chocolate and spices. love it. very dense, smells divine in the oven. haven't made it in years. maybe this weekend. beautiful post.
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