On a cold, very rainy day such as today, there is nothing quite as satisfying as producing a freshly baked loaf of bread. It’s yeasty warmth fills our apartment with a fragrance that takes me back to my childhood.
Mom also made doughnuts once in while, but bread was a fairly regular feature in our house. Of course, there were no fancy bread machines or stand mixers in those days so hand-kneading was the only way. I think I inherited her love of baking because we used to chat together about the delights of kneading bread. That may sound weird, but don’t knock it til you’ve tried it!
Until recently, I thoroughly enjoyed hand-kneading bread to the point that it took on the feel of a newborn baby’s bottom. Cookbooks often employed that description, I think, to make us forget the hard labor of kneading bread for about ten minutes, twice. Nevertheless, making one’s own bread had become something other than drudgery after commercial bakeries started producing it for our grandmothers.
Unlike most other baking projects, if you forget an ingredient such a salt, you can always knead it in once you remember it, so bread making is almost foolproof.
When arthritis in my hands got too painful, I gave in and bought a bread machine -- to make the dough -- that’s all! I still shape the loaf/ves, watch them rise and bake them.
Thinking I was adjusting enough for today’s high humidity, I added a little extra flour before I turned on the machine. When it beeped me to check the consistency of the dough before it was allowed to rise, I realized I hadn’t added nearly enough flour, so sprinkled in more, thinking the machine would incorporate it. I was wrong.
When I returned about a half hour later, there was my fragrant dough rising almost to push open the lid with the added flour undisturbed on the top. That wasn’t supposed to happen.
I unplugged the machine and twisted the pan of dough off its perch. Turning it upside down, the flour fluttered gently onto the counter while the dough stretched from the pan in sinuous strings of magnificence. You want those strings which mean that the dough is alive and holding together. However stretching like that wasn’t good because it indicated the need to knead more flour in so the dough wouldn’t fall in the baking pan resulting in a solid, hard, inedible brick -- very difficult to remove. I know this from experience . . . sigh.
My hands ache a bit, but the pan of dough is enjoying a slow rise in a corner of the kitchen. Before long, it will be gifting me with it’s lovely fragrance and memories of my childhood.