Been baking a lot of bread lately. I do this when there’s snow on the ground or in the forecast or within the realm of seasonal possibility.
In other words, it’s how I pass the winter. Summer, autumn and spring I buy bread, but in the winter I’m a bread-bakin’ fool. As opposed to the regular kind of fool (which I also am; see above re: summer, autumn and spring).
I guess it’s my version of the panic response that sends people to the store for French toast ingredients — milk, eggs, bread — every time the weather loonies on TV bring up the possibility of more than a half-inch of winter precipitation. I run to the store too, except I go for flour and yeast.
So, anyway, lately there has been a lot of loafing around at my house. Bread loafing.
Because I am a little out of practice — it’s been at least a year since I baked — I started with trying to make some good old plain white bread. When it’s right, you can’t beat a loaf of homemade white bread still warm from the oven.
It brings back memories of Grandma cutting you a big slice of freshly baked bread and spreading it thickly with butter and strawberry jam and handing it to you with a peck on the cheek and a pat on the head. Which is weird, because my grandmother never did any of those things. As long as I knew her, she bought her bread from the bread man or at the grocery store.
Well, my bread started out promisingly enough, I guess, but something happened along the way. It never did rise properly; and when I baked it, it came out … well, let’s just say that one of the loaves is presently holding up the sofa where the leg broke off.
Undaunted, I pressed on, baking loaf after loaf, adjusting things here, fixing things there, until I finally produced a loaf of white bread that didn’t automatically go into the basket where we keep the bird food. It rose nice and high, had a good crust and a tender crumb and actually tasted like something you would want to eat. I was back in the game.
Next stop was whole-wheat bread. Now, whole wheat is tricky. You talk about baking bricks … if you haven’t done it before, or have laid off for a while, whole-wheat flour can produce a loaf of outstanding building material. It took me nearly an entire bag of flour to produce one you could actually slice and chew. I’m saving the others through for when I repave the backyard walkway this spring.
Then my brother mentioned that he missed a kind of light wheat bread we used to eat as kids, and that gave me an idea. Armed with a bag each of King Arthur’s white, whole wheat and bread flours, I got to work putting together a loaf of light wheat sandwich bread. I got it right the first time, too. Yay, me.
And that may be the bread I go with for the rest of the winter. Although I might tackle a light rye. I used to make a pretty good loaf of rye bread, and it might be nice to try again.
It’ll probably take me a few tries, but that’s OK. The pathway needs more pavers.
Mike Redmond is an author, journalist, humorist and speaker. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.