On Thanksgiving this year, we all went over to my brother’s house in Durham, and had a wonderful time with family. Doug put on quite the spread: free-range turkey, scrumptious sweet potatoes (with rum!), corn casserole, pies and cake for dessert, and homemade bread and rolls. Lots and lots of homemade bread and rolls. More bread and rolls than you can shake the proverbial stick at. And they were GOOD bread and rolls.
Today, I was sitting at the computer and thinking about the fact that I had never baked fresh bread in my life. Sure, I had cooked lots of meals on the stove and in the oven, and love to cook on my Holland grill, but I had never jumped in and baked a fresh loaf of bread.
The time had come.
I looked through the recipes that I have been saving up, both loaf bread and rolls, for the right recipe to end my decades-old bread-making virginity. I ended up choosing Pennies and Pancakes – Grandma’s Country White Bread for it’s simplicity and the fact that it was listed as costing less than fifty cents a loaf. I did some quick research on the web to answer some questions that I had (How many teaspoons of yeast ARE there in one of those little packets? How do I tell when the dough is ready?) When I had my questions answered, I brought the recipe up on my nook, rolled up my sleeves, and headed for the kitchen.
I knew the first hurdle was going to be the yeast. I had always heard horror stories about the water being too hot or too cold to make the yeast react. Goldilocks I ain’t, but it turned out not to be a problem. It was just right. The yeast bubbled nicely after the water/yeast/honey concoction sat for a few minutes, so I added the required oil. Hurdle one cleared. Go Greg!
Next came the flour. Six whole cups. Now, I’m not saying I’m blonde or anything, but I can lose track in the middle of adding these kind of things easily, especially since Carter picks times like that to come ask questions about movies, video games, and life in general. I got through two cups with the container of flour that was open, ran out, and had to go to the cupboard to get a new bag of flour which, of course, tore on the side of the bag as I was opening it. Flour on the counter. Flour on the floor. Flour on the stove. Flour under the stove burners. In fact, it seemed like there was flour everywhere EXCEPT in the recipe.
Okay, these things happen. I finished adding the correct amount of flour (hushing Carter midway through as he came into the kitchen to comment on the Harry Potter movie he was watching) and the salt. Hurdle two cleared. Yay, Greg!
Let me pause for a moment, and describe one of my new toys. This summer I had found a old Hobart Kitchenaid mixer at a yard sale for five dollars. That’s right. Five dollars. And it ran! The lady at the yard sale was nice enough to plug it in and show me. Of course, it didn’t look as nice as it does in the picture. The picture was taken after Mary cleaned all the kichen grease and grime off of it. Planning to replace the cord with a newer polarized plug, she took it apart to get inside the housing. Upon looking at it, I decided that it would be fine with the cord it has, and put it all back together. I was really looking forward to using my thrifty purchase.
All ingredients in the bowl, I cranked the bowl up to the mixer, and turned it to the “on” position. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I had evidently put something back together wrong.
There are times in life when one has to drop back and punt. This was one of those times. Time to dig in and mix this gloop together by hand. Literally. I was a mess, and called Carter in to add more flour to the bowl since there was no way I was going to be handling any implements at that moment. I ended up with sticky dough up to my wrists and even on the front of my shirt, but I got it done. Hurdle three cleared. I might make it to the end yet.
The rest was a breeze. I set the dough under the stove lights to rise, switched my nook over to the latest novel I’m reading, and went about my business for the next hour. I came back after the timer went off and found that the dough had risen just as planned. I sprayed down a couple of loaf pans, separated the dough, put the filled pans under the light again, and went off to read some more.
Again, the dough rose as planned, and into the oven it went. The smell? The smell was just short of divine. If Yankee Candle could make a candle that smelled like that, they’d put all other candle makers out of business.
At the twenty-five minute mark, I pulled two beautiful loaves of bread from the oven, and at the thirty minute Mark, Carter and I were enjoying the first slices. His eyes got wide, he grinned, and gave me an enthusiastic thumbs up.
So totally worth it. 🙂