Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Bread Bug

I seem to have caught some sort of bug.

A while back Molly commented on this very infection that keeps a young woman close to her stove, breathing deeply of activated yeast and kneading mixtures of flour, water, salt, and sweetness into happy little balls. My mom caught it for several years when I was young, and, even though I'm not quite in the "after college and before the kids start school" stage yet, I did just turn 22, which puts me in the right age bracket (again, according to Molly).

I've often dreamed of nonchalantly making bread: instinctively knowing when it's been kneaded enough, when the shaped loaf is taut enough, when the bottom sounds hollow enough. I'm hardly there, but thanks to the inspiration of my uncle and the reliability of Cook's Illustrated's recipes, I am continuing to sharpen my skills.

Several weeks ago I started making a multigrain bread when, midway through its first rise, I was invited to some friends' house. I decided to simply cart along my dough and finish the process there. Of course everyone went crazy over the delicious smell filling the air as the bread baked, and, try as I might, I could only swat away hands from the cooling loaves for so long. We sliced into the warm, hearty crumb and blissfully enjoyed the chewiness of the crust, the nibble of the sunflower seeds, and the soft center.

From that late night snack, I was "hired" to bake another two loaves, so this weekend I finally got around to it. But as my friend's two loaves sat on the counter waiting to be picked up, I started wanting a loaf for our own apartment. I spent the better part of Saturday scanning the internet for recipes and yet procrastinating on the process (somehow rationalizing that sitting at my computer was at least closer to actual studying than being in the kitchen). But when I woke up Sunday morning to drizzly rain, the only thing I could think to do was bake more bread.

This time I built my dough off of Molly's recipe for Rancho La Puerta Whole Wheat Bread. I added a few ingredients I knew my cupboards could bare getting rid of, such as raisins, poppy seeds, and ground flaxseed. I also spontaneously sprinkled cinnamon on the dough before shaping it into a loaf, but the amount was too conservative to add any detectable flavor. In the end, the simplicity of the whole wheat base shone through, and between us four girls and visitors, the loaf was gone by Monday morning.

After the weekend, I was out of yeast. But don't worry, I have already bought some more and am dying for the free time to try out new recipes, perfect the reliable ones, but, mainly, I want to stick my fingers into a bowl of wet dough and get to work it with my palms and peek under kitchen towels at growing bumps in greased loaf pans.

I know, I know. This bug has hit me hard.

Sharing the love: above is a slice of bread destined for a friend.


Rachael said...

Yes, you're hooked. My bread-making days lasted nineteen years before it tapered off. Once I started working outside the home when all four of you were in school...priorities changed.
But it is delightful to return to it now and then.
Let's do it together in June again!
Love you, Lily~

Lael said...

yes, there's no question I got all of this from you. (thank you.) I'm thinking we should start growing some starter while I'm home too! I know, I know, you can reign me in if you need to. ;)

Hillary said...

I have plans and dreams to make a bread too. I really should get over my procrastination and make one someday! :) Nice job.

Aran said...

Hi Lael! First of all, thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving such a lovely comment. And I'm glad I came here because I found your beautiful blog! The bread looks delicious and the package fabulous! Love it!

Lael said...

Hillary: thank you for visiting my blog! yes, you really should try making bread someday - just know that once you start it's hard to stop!

Aran: thank you so much for the return of compliments! It's so nice to get encouragement in what I'm passionate about.

Jared said...

I wish we lived closer and could share your passion and gifts here! I love hearing about how you're making time for generous, enjoyable times with friends.

Lael said...

Jared: did you say "here" because living in Texas isn't an option for you? I must make my way to CA?! frankly, I like that idea, especially when there's a new neice/nephew to visit! (I miss you heaps.)

diva@theSugarBar said...

hello lael, thank you for stoppin by my blog.:) heehee, i love the title of this post. the bread bug is indeed very infectious. it always hits me when it comes to foccacia or really good, hot bread rolls. all i gotta do next to soothe my senses is a good spread of butter. x

Lael said...

diva@thesugarbar: thank you for stopping by MY blog! yes, fresh bread and butter really can't be beat!

chocolate shavings said...

Bread can be pretty addictive, especially when it's still warm and has just been made! Great job on all the bread-making!

Great Big Veg said...

There is no going back you know that dont you?
Once bitten, twice baked.

Lael said...

it's fun to find so many others who can relate to this! thanks for your comments, chocolateshavings and greatbigveg!

Anonymous said...

Lael, It has been a great pleasure to spend some time with you. Your blog is just great. Your pictures make it so appealing. I have copied some of your recipes. I, too, share your interest in cooking & photography, but, someone has to support Taco Bueno.
Come back any time. Darlene