“Full of Feelings” Month: Bread

This month is quickly drawing to a close and I’m aware that is has been full of feelings, and not full of writing. But we all rest from things, and I am not into letting my writing (or not writing) be a guilt producing activity. The summer garden is nearly planted. I bought a new car. I had a visit from a Florida friend. We got caught up on doctor appointments. It has been a full month.

And for some reason my thoughts and feelings have turned to bread. I’m not sure how that happened. I used to make all the bread for our family when the children were small. I ground wheat to make my flour and baked up four loaves at a time, memorized my recipe, and thought I would do it forever. But I haven’t for a long time now.

We have a European Firehouse Bakery in Hayward and Mom has been a long time customer, buying their sourdough rye and SanFrancisco Sourdough loaves. It is bread with a consistency different from American bakeries. It’s not the bread you find on the shelves in the grocery stores. It’s a small, round loaf and it comes at a price. I have wondered if I could make bread like that and I mean to find out.

My feelings about bread have been shaken a bit by my explorations into keto eating, where bread gets a bad name. I think that has to be a mistake. If bread was really bad for us, we would have phrases like “the bread of death”. But no, it’s the “bread of life”, if you make it correctly and eat it in moderation. I love bread. There is no better way to eat butter than with bread, and I also love butter. I have a lot of feelings about bread, butter, and food in general.

So, I bought sourdough starter and put the flour, yeast and water to bubbling in a warm place on the counter. This starter turned out to be kind of like a baby. I had to watch it, feed it, make sure it smelled good and didn’t get too hot or cold while it was getting just the right degree of “sour”. Having starter was not sufficient either. The recipe also called for “old dough” from the previous loaf. Since I had no previous loaf I had to make new “old dough” from a recipe. Bread is so weird and complicated and you can see why I have developed some emotional angst over it, plus a whole lot of flour mess. A whole lot.

Breaking in a new cookbook…

After making the starter and the old dough, the bread itself also took a lot of watching, like a baby, because it had to rise until double in size. Unlike a baby it had to be punched down, proofed and baked all to precise directions and timing. I realized that I could not leave home on bread making day or the bread would certainly be ruined. We can’t have that.

It was all a bit much the first time around, but I think I will get faster and less confused as I practice. Today I have stayed in the house, working on a second loaf. I should have started earlier in the morning, because now it is after 10 p.m. and I am still waiting for the bread to get the right size so I can put it in the oven (where it will still have to bake for another hour…). Keeping one up at night – another thing bread and babies have in common. Just sayin’…

#atozchallenge: Unleavened Bread

Long ago, a large tribe of people who had become enslaved in a land they had originally gone to for protection, were forced to leave in a hurry. It takes time for natural yeasts to develop in bread and they didn’t have that time. Their traveling bread was unleavened and it became one of the symbols by which this hasty departure was remembered. You can read a brief recount of this story in the Bible, book of Exodus, chapter 12, verses 31 -42.

This is one incidence of unleavened bread that is historically significant, but since unleavened bread is simply any bread product made without a leavening agent (yeast, baking soda, baking powder for instance) you can find many examples of it worldwide that are in common use.  Tortillas are unleavened bread common in Central America. Roti and chapati are unleavened breads common in India and Southeast Asia.  Most of these breads are flat in form but not all flatbreads are unleavened.

Interestingly this week is the Jewish Feast of Unleavened Bread which many Christians also acknowledge.  I know what it is like to celebrate this holiday and am sharing with you one of my favorite recipes.  It is a delicious sweet bread with a delightful almond flavor.

Almond Unleavened Bread

Mix: 4 eggs (beaten) with 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of flour

Add: 3/4 cup melted butter or oil

Add in increments: 2 more cups of flour, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon almond extract, and finally 1/2 cup of unsalted, slivered almonds.  Place this thick batter in a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until bread is slightly browned on top.  Cool and slice in 1/2 inch slices.  Toast if desired.DSC07700