Thursday, May 24, 2012

Give Us This Day

I could never manage the whole "low carb" thing.  I tried it and within 24 hours I was ready to take hostages at a Dunkin Donuts. I'll  never be skinny, I just want to be strong and healthy.  Besides, there are men in the world that do not want to spend their time with a woman who looks like a bag of antlers.

So bread is still my friend.  Brot, pan, brød, le pain, Хлеб in Russian, Khoubz in Arabic. Sliced, torn, blessed, kissed, eaten fresh from the oven or broken, slightly stale and sweetened into milky coffee. There are as many variations as there are languages.  In some cultures it's eaten with every meal, in many parts of the world it IS the meal. But since it's something I have at least once a day, I want only the best. 

As  little kids in the late 60's, we had "Wonder" bread, with the trademark plastic white wrapper with brightly colored balloons on it.  It  made up most every kids lunchbox PB and J sandwich in those days, but it also made for great fun rolling  it up into little balls of dough the size of grapes and bouncing them on the floor.  When pressed, it had the texture of library paste and, if you removed the crust, you could use it to get an imprint of the Sunday funny papers. It wasn't food as much as fun.

But Mom didn't give us store bought bread all the time and she and Grandma knew how to make the best sweet breads and yeast rolls.  My favorite was a yeast roll, fragrant with butter and buttermilk that was baked in a muffin cup and spread out like fans, to be peeled apart and consumed ever so carefully.

Mom and Grandma Gullikson worked in the kitchen together, not really needing to talk except the occasional little quip or pun. Grandma lived with us.  Widowed not long past her 40th birthday, (my grandfather was a lumberjack), she was in good health, but Dad didn't want her to be alone when she was in her senior years.  Dad and my Mom met in grade school. Dad came  from an extremely disfunctional family. Grandma  G. recognized a kid who needed some support and love and welcomed Dad and his siblings into her home as childhood  friends of her own children.  As he grew up to love my Mom, he grew to love her family as his own.

So for me, it just seemed natural to have her in in the house as they baked. Mom would  lift the pans into the oven, Grandma laughing as she spilled salt and then threw a pinch over her shoulder, all the misfortune, worry and hunger that is the world, only so many grains on a finger that could be flung back in a gesture that was as much defiance as superstition.

Dad would join us, softly kissing the soft spot of flour, there on Mom's neck, brushing back a strand of auburn hair, sprinkled with more flour. Then we'd eat, the bread a benediction, a blessing, confirmation of the love that was in that house.

When I am home from my travels I will bake bread again.  Flour will swirl in a shaft of light, small smudges on my face and neck, salting my hair.  The oven heats up as I knead carefully, lift and weigh the smoothness and density in my hand, watching the bread rise up, the aroma filling the kitchen.  On the table is simply fresh butter, to spread on the top, lick out of the crevasse of layers, nibbling on the tender edges as the warmth fills our nostrils.

Yes, it's time to bake some bread.


  1. Cardammon Bread

    1 1/2 Tbsp instant yeast
    4 cups flour
    11/4 cups lukewarm milk
    3/4 cup melted butter
    3/4 cup white sugar
    1 egg, lightly beaten
    1 tsp salt
    1 tsp ground cardamom
    1.) Mix flour, yeast, and cardamom in your mixing bowl. Set aside.
    2.) Heat milk and stir in sugar until dissolved.
    3.) Add the milk and sugar to the flour mixture. Add 1/2 cup melted butter or oil, too. Mix on low (if you are using a mixer) until a nice sticky dough forms.
    4.) Change out the mixer blade and use a dough hook. Knead for a few minutes and then stop. Let the dough rest for about 20 minutes with a light cover over it (I use a plate and just stick it over the top of the mixing bowl). This is called autolyse and is nap time for the dough during which the gluten relaxes and absorbs moisture.
    5.) When the twenty minutes is up, begin kneading again and knead in the salt.
    6.) Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into three equal parts. Let them rise for about 30-45 minutes. Roll the dough balls into ropes and braid them on the greased baking pan. Tuck the ends of the braid under.
    7.) Brush the braided loaf with egg and sprinkle it with sugar. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven until golden brown (about 30 minutes).

  2. Yeast Fan Rolls (from an old gourmet magazine recipe).

    1 stick plus 2t ablespoonsunsalted butter, melted, divided
    2 teaspoons active dry yeast
    1/4 cupwarm water (105–115°F)
    1 tablespoon wild honey
    3 cups King Arthur all-purpose flour plus some extra for kneading and dusting
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    3/4 cupbuttermilk (shake well before pouring).

    1 muffin tin (twelve muffins).

    Butter muffin cups with 1 Tbsp melted butter.

    Mis together yeast, warm water, and honey in a large bowl with a wooden spoon and let stand until foamy, about 6 minutes. (If mixture doesn't foam, the water was too cold or the yeast was bad, start over).

    Mix flour, salt, buttermilk, and 6 Tbsp melted butter into yeast mixture with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until a soft dough forms. Turn out dough onto a well-floured surface and knead, dusting surface and your hands with just enough flour to keep dough from sticking, until dough is elastic and smooth, 6 to 8 minutes. Form dough into a ball.

    Place dough in an oiled large bowl and turn to coat. Cover bowl lightly with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel and let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. I usually warm the oven just slightly, turn it off, and a few minutes later place the bread in there and close the door)

    Punch down dough and devide in half. Roll out half of dough on a lightly floured surface with a floured rolling pin into a 12-inch square (about 1/8 inch thick; keep remaining half covered with plastic wrap). Brush dough with 1/2 Tbsp butter and cut into 6 equal strips. Stack strips, buttered sides up, and cut crosswise into 6 equal pieces. Turn each piece on a side and put into a muffin cup. Make more rolls with remaining dough in same manner. Separate outer layers of each roll to fan outward. Cover rolls with a kitchen towel (not terry cloth) and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled and dough fills cups, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

    Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in middle. Bake rolls until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. Brush tops with remaining 2 Tbsp butter, then transfer rolls to a rack and cool at least 20 minutes.

  3. Its Time to eat some bread...YUMMY.

  4. Carb porn---you failed to warn me!

  5. Alton Brown's theory is that the passing of the homemade dinner roll was the start of the decline of the American family. I have to agree a little. I make a pan of yeast rolls that will bring a Jerry Springer family together and keep their mouths full and quiet. :)

  6. Dangit. Now I'm hungry! AGAIN!!!!

  7. "Besides, there are men in the world that do not want to spend their time with a woman who looks like a bag of antlers."


    Amen. :)

    The bread looks yummy!

  8. That reminds me I need to get my kraut burger fix tomorrow. Made fresh daily and just four blocks away.

  9. Hopefully the weather will be cool enough that you will want to bake. There is always the grill if it is too warm to bake inside I guess.

  10. I have not a clue how to make bread, but I surely love to eat it. I *could* eat it as my only meal and be perfectly happy about it.

  11. LOL!!! I remember making dough balls out of bread and then playing with them! Haven't thought about that in years! This post also made me remember how much I enjoy making homemade bread. . . everything from my delicious braided bread at Christmas to just a loaf of plain whole wheat bread fresh out of the oven. I need to do that again.

  12. Lol "carb porn". To funny!

    I could not give up bread, ever! My kids favorite thing to make is bread.

  13. You kill me sister, I think I gain weight just reading your blog.

  14. You should try making bread with FRESH ground flour! The expensive part is getting the grinder....but there is nothing like it either! Your results will typically not be a "pretty" due to the 100% whole wheat, and the slightly coarser grind than factory, but the taste can't be beat.


  15. Why do I come here when I'm on a diet?! I know better...

  16. I can smell it from here. I agree, a girl that eats bread is far more lovely than those bags of antlers.

  17. Those recipes look wonderful. I'll have to add them to the kitchen collection. :) I baked sour cream and spinach bread yesterday. Yum!

  18. The yeast fan roll recipe is very close to my rolls that I make for family holidays.
    At the last kneading before rising, I sprinkle in a bit of cinnamon.
    Sometimes, I toss in a bit of unbleached whole wheat flour, but it doesn't work or rise as well. (love the taste and texture, though)

    Kneading dough with your hands is one of life's simple pleasures. (along with eating the bread)

  19. "a woman who looks like a bag of antlers" Or a "bundle of kindling"; Hawk to Spenser in "A Catskill Eagle". Great recipes, have a good weekend.


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