I have recently discovered the joys of baking bread. Ever since I was old enough to contemplate bread baking, I've regarded it as an arduous task requiring the better part of a day to complete. My grandmother taught me to bake when I was in junior high school, and anytime I needed a break from studying, I'd go to the kitchen, where I happily turned out cookies, pies, and brownies. But bread intimidated me.
Since I got married, I've frequently told myself that I should start baking bread, but somehow I never managed to find the time. That's not surprising, given that keeping house, my editing job, and church commitments kept me busy enough that I never had the six or so hours free that I thought were necessary for baking bread. But recent changes in my job have lightened my work load, and last week I found myself with a whole day free of pressing obligations.
In my opinion, the French make the best bread in the world. It's been difficult for me to find comparable bread in Ukraine (although the bread here is far superior to the American Wonder Bread variety). So, I decided to make French bread. Contrary to my expectations, the process was not at all arduous. It only took about three hours (not the six I had imagined), and it only required about thirty minutes of labor on my part. The rest of the time the dough was rising on its own or baking in the oven. Halfway through the baking time, the apartment filled with a wonderful aroma. The loaves turned out picture perfect with beautiful golden crusts, and the taste of fresh-baked bread hot from the oven was enough to get me hooked!
This afternoon I made onion-herb bread, and it was even better than last week's French bread. Of course, for those experienced bread bakers reading this, my former misconceptions about the process are probably humorous. You already knew that the effort was minimal compared to the rewards, and that the rewards included far more than a delicious treat. For the rest of you: there is something intensely satisfying in working with the dough, shaping it, and seeing the amazing metamorphosis of yeast, flour, and water (plus a few other ingredients, depending on the recipe) into wholesome loaves of bread. It gives one a tremendous sense of satisfaction and delight. If you enjoy doing things in the kitchen but have never baked bread, do yourself a favor and give it a try!
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10 replies on “A New Hobby”
“Mahladetz”, Sharon! Bread-making is great, isn’t it? I have a wonderful sund-dried tomato, basil, garlic cheese-bread recipe. For me it has to do with actually somewhat quickly seeing positive successful results to my labour!Something I don’t often enjoy. Silly as it may sound, there is something spiritual to making bread…seeing all those individual ingredients go in, mix together, seemingly “disappear” and then re-appear as this wholly other thing – BREAD! You can’t seperate flour, butter, soda, etc. within a finished loaf of bread. They are all there, but it is now one whole unit, made up of all the parts, but indivisible…it makes me think of our union with Christ, with one another, etc. Probably why God uses the analogy of breaking bread together in the idea of communion…with Him and each other. Anyway…thanks for sparking pleasant musings for me. 🙂
How long do you let it rise?
I just let it rise in the oven until it about doubles in size. (I preheat the oven to “warm,” then turn the heat off and leave the light on.) I don’t time it, I just check it periodically. I think it takes around an hour, but the rising time varies with the temperature in the apartment, so in the summer it doesn’t take long, but in the middle of the winter, it takes much longer. However, if I need it to rise more quickly, I place a 9×13 pan of very hot water on the bottom rack in the oven. It seems like it only takes 20-30 minutes to rise that way!
I respect your work,it is the most nice one i ever see
Hi Sharon, I shared this passion once when I was assistante d’anglais in Bretagne. I lived in an unheated house on an island (ile aux moines) so baking bread (and fishing) was a means of surviving the winter as well as saving money. I learned to make pita bread as well, and I was amazed it turned out well. I also made cheese, and that became a hobby too…Now I avoid bread like the plague because I cannot resist eating a lot of it when it is fresh….
What a coincidence! I worked as an assistante d’anglais in France too, but I was in Auvergne. It was in 1999-2000, and I still look back on it as one of the highlights of my life. I still bake bread too, but now it’s more than a hobby. It has become a way of life, as I now bake almost all of the bread that our growing family eats!
No Sharon, it is hardly a coincidence. You went to France partly because I went to France (assistante d’anglais); otherwise, I would not have known about that experience that was a turning point in my life and i would not have pointed it out to you…C’est cyclique, non?
Oh, it’s you, Elizabeth! Since you were commenting as an anonymous reader, I thought that some stranger, who had stumbled upon my blog, just happened to have served as an English-language assistant in France too. That’s impressive that you made cheese as well. I might have to try that sometime!
Ch’re Sharon, the easiest cheese to make is simply to strain yogurt by resting it in a fine strainer in the refrigerator (with a pot under). Three days later it becomes a hard white mass and the whey falls in the pot. Then you can add spices to it, including dried parsley and grated garlic, and so you get a Boursin with a fraction of the calories. This is not the standard way of course, but an easy alternative that does not require much planning; one that is good for weight conscious people.
That’s interesting, because I recently started making all our yogurt, and just last week I started straining some of it in order to make frozen yogurt. Now I’ll have to experiment with making cheese from it too. Thanks for the tip!