Monday, January 15, 2007

The most significant loaf

I do not remember the first loaf of bread I ever made. But I do remember the most significant one. It was baked on September 29, 1977. I had met an interesting guy who was back at Davidson for his senior year after spending nine months teaching high school in Kenya. How cool was that?! He liked to bake bread but lived in a single dorm room with no kitchen. I shared his interest in bread baking, was intrigued about his Kenya trip and lived off campus in the second floor of an old house with a kitchen. The die was cast.

He came over and we started our bread. We kneaded and got it in the bowl to rise and then went for a long walk through the cow pasture behind my house. When we got back, we punched it down, put it in pans and set it to rise again. Then we looked at all his slides of Kenya. The bread baked and we ate it and talked. That was the first of many loaves.

Two years and three months later we were married. This September we will celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of that first loaf of bread. The beauty of bread in my life - homemade, hand kneaded, fresh baked bread - is that it’s what drew Coty and me together one September evening long ago.

Now I know that for the Carnival of Beauty I’m supposed to include a bread recipe. The problem is I rarely use recipes anymore. I’ve made so many loaves of bread since that first one that I mostly do it by sight and feel now. So, here is my best shot at explaining how I make our favorite rosemary bread. When it bakes, it fills our home with the most pleasing fragrance imaginable and invites hungry boys to head to the kitchen for a slice or two or three while it’s still warm.

Beth’s Rosemary Whole Wheat Bread

Before I tell you the ingredients, I must explain to those who have never visited my kitchen, that I am the happy owner of a Magic Mill mixer with a dough hook. It has made baking for a family of eight a joy. It kneads dough for 5-6 loaves at a time and it always turns out well. Into the bowl of the Magic Mill I put:

2 tablespoons dry active yeast
2 cups warm water
¼ cup sugar or honey

Stir to dissolve the yeast. Then add:

1 tablespoon salt
1 or 2 eggs
¼ cup oil (I use olive oil)
3-4 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary (for me it HAS to be fresh)

Now add 7-8 cups flour, some white, some whole wheat, a cup at a time till the dough is the right consistency, not too stiff, not too wet. If the dough clings too much to the side of the bowl, add a little more flour. If it doesn’t hold together, add a little more water. Let it knead for 8-10 minutes. Take out the dough hook, add a little oil to the bowl and turn the dough in the bowl to cover with oil. Let it rise in the bowl for 45 minutes or so. Then punch it down and take it out of the bowl. Spread a little flour over the counter and give the dough a few kneads and then divide it into portions, shaping it into loaves and placing it in greased loaf pans. Let it rise again, about a half hour and then bake in a preheated 350 degree oven about 30 minutes. Stand back as hungry boys invade the kitchen, butter knives in hand, to devour the loaves. Be sure to hide one for later!


Kim Anderson said...

I love to make Rosemary Bread during Lent or really any Sunday. Rosemary is an herb often used to season lamb. So I remember the Lamb who was broken for me whenever I break that bread.

What a lovely way to fall in love!

Revka said...

You are making me drool over both the bread and the machine! Thanks for sharing.