Baking Bread

On one of our recent trips to the library, we picked up a beautiful storybook called Blue Bowl Down.  It was an illustrated lullaby all about an Appalachian family making bread. 

We read it the first time on a very blah day.  The kind where I couldn’t get anything done, and the kind where I had very little oomph.  But we read the story, and it enchanted me, so I pulled down my red and white checkered Better Homes cookbook just to see if a bread recipe looked doable.

We set to work–Little Miss as excited as I was.  We dumped the flour and warmed the water…  Stirred in the yeast.

And then we kneaded the dough.  And at that moment I couldn’t understand why anyone would want to buy bread–or even a bread machine.  There is something so therapeutic…  and earthy….  Something that feels like hearkening back to your origins to fold and push and fold and push.  It makes me all day-dreamy, standing there, kneading the dough.  I think of the scores and scores of women in every conceivable culture who have done this task to sustain their families.  I think of all of the lovely Biblical metaphors that come to mind.  Even  better–for a few brief moments–I don’t  think.  I just work the dough until I feel it relaxing into the right consistency. 

Then, of course, we let it rise.  When our bread is rising, I peek on it constantly like a little kid awaiting Christmas.  Every time I walk through the kitchen (and I make many excuses to do so), I have to see what the dough looks like.  The first time I was delighted to see that it really did rise.  Then I had a ball punching it down, patting it out, and forming it into loaves.

Soon enough the bread was in the oven and that…. smell–you know the one I  mean–had filled the house.  Warm, and fresh, and nourishing all on it’s own. 

Since then I’ve decided to make it a habit.  We’ve baked bread three weeks in a row now, including today.  I thought that I wouldn’t enjoy baking  bread because it was such a long process, but it turns out, it is the process that thrills me.  Getting my fingers in the dough, feeling the joy of creating something so sustaining.  It’s life-giving.  It’s warm and comforting.  It’s grounding. 

It’s a little thing, but it’s something that makes me breathe with a little less labor.  It makes me feel at home in my own skin.  It appeals to each of my senses in equally wonderful ways.

It’s a little piece of joy right now.  And I love that.

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12 thoughts on “Baking Bread

  1. I love that ou’re baking bread! I have always wanted to make my own and have also heard of the therapeutic benefits.

    Jodie (above) – the dough rises on its own. The yeast makes it happen. The only reason I know is because you use yeast in pizza dough as well. Good luck!

  2. Hmmmm. Just reading this makes me want to give that a shot. Haven’t done it in many years. (you have no idea how terrible I am in the kitchen, however…)

  3. I, too, enjoy baking bread. I make Heather’s yeast rolls many times a year and always enjoy it. I haven’t touched my bread maker in years as a result of some of recipes I’ve gotten on-line. Much more satisfaction comes from doing it yourself like your ancestors did. 🙂

  4. I think I just do the whole yeast and warm water thing wrong. . . I’ve tried to make bread before (and pizza dough)and it never rises! It’s sad.

  5. Jodie – the water has to be the right temperature for the yeast to work….warm but not hot. Keep trying. When I first started baking buns when I was a newlywed they would’ve appropriately been renamed rocks! With practice you get the feel of the dough and know when it’s kneaded just right. The smell of fresh bread is heavenly. I might just surprise my guys with it tonight. They’d be thrilled.

  6. My my mom made homemade wheat bread up until we moved to Chicago and she started teaching again. I miss the smell of homemade bread cooking. When I do smell it reminds me of childhood. I’ve done it before, but not often. Generally time being the reason. Christmas I make sticky buns, the recipe is over on my blog if you’re intereted. And yes, I find kneeding dough to be very theraputic at times. 😀

  7. My daughter has begun making bread this year. All on her own. It gave her something to do instead of worry about me when I had my surgery. She’s good at it and I love the results. There is nothing better than homemade bread made by or with someone you love.

  8. I’m so happy you found bread baking such a joy. Sadly, I think I made it more often in college at the boys’ house then I do now in my own kitchen (which wasn’t that often then either). I can’t help but think of Jesus as I make bread. He said He is the bread of life and rightly so. It starts with water like baptism. Then kneading reminds me of Jesus’s time in the wilderness when He was being stretched. After his ministry grew (bread raises) you punch it down and He was too, BUT they both rise again.
    Jodie, it helps to put it in a warm place and allow it 45 min. to rise. I put it in my car in the summer. and in the winter, on top of my warm running clothes dryer.

  9. Wow, all this talk of bread, dough and kneeding/therapy makes me feel like cooking…. and I hate cooking! Does sound yummy though! I think I’m gonna give Killashandra’s sticky buns a shot. If it works, I’ll give some to people for a Christmas morning treat.

    Okay, water warm but not too hot……

  10. Pingback: Friday Faves -- Full Time in NM

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