About Me

I have been cooking my way through life for over 50 years, beginning with mud pies as a child. I've turned a corner now and feel a Renaissance in my life. Recipes and Random Thoughts is my personal spin in a blog about how to prepare good food and how it prepares you for life. I want to share with you, honest to goodness food punctuated with perspective from the special memories and moments that have marked my journey.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Our Daily Bread

Just when you think you've got it all together, things go to hell.  I had my life running like the proverbial " well oiled machine".  Every morning I made my "to do" list divided  by 5 tidy categories:

Family: pick up husband's laundry; send birthday card to niece; check on parents; bug children
Friends: make dinner plans for the weekend; RSVP to party
Finance: pay the bills
Home: have garage door repaired
Personal: hair cut

I think if I've got leftovers in the frig, my iphone, a credit card and clean underwear, I can handle anything.  You know the attack is coming, you just don't know when.  Then your world is inside out, upside down.
Something you do not want happens.  Try as you might, it's out of your control.

Suddenly, events and characters conspire to rob you of your sanity and the most mundane habits suddenly become difficult to accomplish.  Your personal space has been invaded by thieves like anxiety, stress and conflict, robbing you of normalcy.  Who are these nuts and how dare they disturb my tranquil  and orderly existence? They happen to be my elderly parents. I'm enttangled in a web I want no part of.  A routine trip to the grocery store becomes a panic attack.  It looks like a maze of jumbled items you can't recognize and you don't remember what you're there for.  Like an artist selecting his palate, I normally, like to grocery shop because I have a project in mind that leads to something good.  Recently, I have hardly been able to open a can of soup. Today, I was wandering around the isles like I'd never seen eggs and milk before, looking for something familiar and finally it jumped out at me. Bread flour.  I hadn't baked bread in months. My former orderly life is broken and invaded by weird and hostile people.  Could I do it? I feel like Hemingway's shell shocked character, Nick Adams's, returning from war, trying to fly fish. Baking is orderly and precise.

My sister-in-law gave me my first bread machine. She found it for $9 in a garage sale and I took to it like a duck to water.  Once that one died, I invested in a Yojiroushi. You might think it's cheating a bit but you can bake your own loaf without too much fuss.  There is  something therapeutic about kneading and the aroma of baking bread that evokes all sorts of goodness for the soul.  Just put the ingredients in and press the button.  The beauty of the machine is that it creates the perfect environment for the dough to rise.  I never could get it quite right on my own.  Once the dough is ready, I prefer to bake in a conventional oven.  It just comes out better.  A  browned loaf of bread is a thing of beauty.  Today, I'm grateful for time to make it.

Most machines come with their own directions but this recipe from Cook's Illustrated turns out a consistently perfect 1 1/2 lb loaf of wheat bread.

1 cup water
1 large egg
1 tbls butter
3 tbls honey
1 tsp. lemon juice
2 1/4 cups bread flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup dry powdered milk
1 1/2 tsp table salt
2 1/4 dry active yeast

Layer the ingredients in order and do not mix.  Make a small depression  or well in the dry ingredients and put the yeast in.  It must not touch the wet ingredients.  Then follow manufactures dough instructions.  While the dough rises preheat the oven to 350 in the last ten minutes. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface. With floured hands shape quickly into a loaf and transfer to a baking pan.  Bake 30 minutes at 350. Turn loaf out on a rack to cool.

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