Friday, February 15, 2008

Bread

I have probably only baked with yeast a couple of times in my life since childhood. I like to cook, but I'm not a baker - Ghiradelli brownie mixes don't exactly count, so I usually only bake for birthdays (layer cake with buttercream frosting - YUM.)

As a child, I remember baking bread with my mom when I was quite small. I can clearly picture the corner of the kitchen we worked in; Mum (that's what I called her then) would pull the wooden cutting board out, place the bread dough she'd made upon it, and tell me to punch it and smack it and take out all of my anger. Contrary to raising feelings of old frustrations, this exercise seemed quite funny to me, and my own mock anger would make me giggle. I remember the feel of the dough under my fists - firm, yet it would squish if I punched it hard enough. I loved the yeasty smell of it, and the floury mess we made, and being with Mum together, two girls, doing something I didn't think of as work at all.

In hindsight, one of the reasons my mom made bread was to cut corners: we didn't have a lot of money, and my parents knew how to be thrifty. I didn't know about that back then...I just thought that it was a really cool, fun thing that we did together.

Finally, after a series of steps (which were quite laborious, in hindsight), the loaves would be ready to go into the oven. As they baked, the entire house would smell divine. And then, with great delight, we'd eat the bread fresh from the oven, steaming hot.

Tessa's memories of bread making, if she develops any, will be different - she'll miss the pounding of fists, but she'll get the stories.

Today I mentioned my desire to find a used bread machine, and my parents (proponents of the Atkins/low-carb lifestyle) told me to take theirs. I found it on a back shelf in their garage - it won't be missed by them, but it just might get some use here.

So, today, on the way home from visiting Mom/Mum (she's doing better, and even walked with a walker from one room to the next, and sat up in a reclining chair to chat) I stopped at Trader Joe's and picked up some whole wheat bread flour, some yeast, and some ground flax seed, and I was ready to go.

As I write this, the bread machine is grumbling away in the corner of our kitchen where it now lives. No flax seed in this recipe, as none of the bread recipes I have contain flax seed and I didn't want to experiment on my first loaf, but whole wheat honey bread is being made, right now, as I type, in my own kitchen. Now there's a miracle!

The yeast smells wonderful. The bread doesn't even have heat yet - all it is is a newly made dough, not risen, not even fully kneaded yet - and the house smells great.

I suspect that I made a mistake on this loaf; I made a recipe for a medium sized loaf (I had to choose between large, medium, and small, and not knowing what our machine would do, I picked medium....only to find out that the two options we have to choose from are large and small) so it might come out overdone. That's okay, and if it's awful, I will just start fresh. I've warned the family that the first few loaves will be experimental, and they're ready to wait for the perfect loaves that I'm dreaming of and selling them on.

My goal in all of this? Well, it's nice to think of myself as a breadmaker, but that's not it at all. I think that if I start doing some more research, I can make my bread environmentally friendly, healthy, and cheap. A,V,M suggested that each loaf of bread they made was $.50, and that was using organic flour (though they bought it in bulk, knowing that they'd make all of their own bread for the entire year, and I'm not willing to make that kind of commitment right now).

But here is the real thing inspiring me, besides saving a few bucks on bread per week. The real thing is that I'd like to buy locally produced goods, I'd like to cut back on packaging, I'd like to have organic. My local grocery stores don't have organic bread (though I do like Big Horn Valley, which isn't organic, but is 100% whole grain, doesn't have trans-fats, and doesn't contain high fructose corn syrup), and at Great Harvest it's something like $4.50 a loaf and requires a special trip just to buy bread (instead of grabbing it while I'm in the bread aisle, which is more convenient). And even at Great Harvest, it comes in packaging which ends up in a landfill.

So, I hope to find a source for local, organic bread flour (from eastern Washington?) and honey (which this recipe uses), as well as bulk (not individual packets) yeast. If I do that, then I will have local, organic bread at my disposal whenever I wish.

And lest anyone think I'm totally crazy, let me tell you, this isn't exactly hard to make. With a bread machine,t here is no kneading, no watching, no covering with a tea towel, no making sure the room is the right temperature. All I do is measure a few ingredients into a "bucket" that is a part of the machine, and push a few buttons (whole wheat; large loaf; medium brown crust; start) and in a few hours, the machine will beep and tell me that the bread is ready. I don't have to be there to take it out of the oven, as there is no oven: the bread machine turns itself off when it's done.

I don't want to be Martha Stewart, and I don't want to be a martyr, slaving away for the environment, and I don't want to give up all of my free time to save a few bucks. My goal is to find new ways to do things which are different, not necessarily more complicated, to reach my goals of being environmently friendly, local, healthy, organic, fresh, with no excess packaging. Maybe this is one way to do that. The real trick is not in the first loaf, but in finding out if it's a worthwhile habit.

(A side note: one concern about this process is that it might be TOO good. Loaves of bread are not a Weight Watchers staple. Now, a slice of whole wheat bread should be perfect....one point per slice. But a whole loaf could be a problem! Living in a house that smells like baking bread may cause appetite changes, and we'll have to see what that does. But maybe we'll just get used to it.)

It is not the answer. It will not cure the world's problems, or my own. But it is one little step in the right direction...and my house smells great.

1 comment:

philgrad said...

Kristina,

I am one of the owners of Big Island Bees, a producer of organic honey in Hawaii. I came across your post in my daily monitoring of honey items. I just wanted to let you know that you can find our organic Ohia-Lehua and Wilelaiki honey at ChefShop.com's retail shop on Elliott Blvd. Or you can order it on line.

You can learn more about the honey at our website: www.bigislandbees.com.

Best regards,

Phil Grad