Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Wake and Bake: The lure and fear behind bread baking

When I was little my mom made bread once a week. She did the requisite 2 sandwich loaves on Tuesdays, she made dinner rolls and French bread. She helped my dad to make a cinnamon swirl bread for my sister’s preschool bake sale and made special sweet breads at Christmas and Easter.

The homemade sandwich bread was a constant in my childhood. I’d wait for the loaf to cool so we could have a fresh slice with butter on it. When we were low on cereal she’d toast a couple slices, break them into pieces in a bowl, sprinkle a little sugar, pour milk over it and call it breakfast (which I loved, since it was the only time we were allowed sugar on our cereal). If we wanted a snack, we were given peanut butter on toast.

But although I watched her bake bread every week for at least a decade, once I was an adult I caved and bought mine at the grocery store. Bread baking just seemed too mysterious, too fraught with the risk of failure. This was brought home to me when I first tried to make bread on my own, and ended up with pale, loaf-shaped bricks that fell onto the counter with a thud when I turned the loaf pan over. They smelled great, but they were inedible. After all the kneading I’d done and the 3-4 hours I’d spent mulling over the instructions in the Joy of Cooking, I figured I’d be better off letting Key Food give me bread when I needed it.

I got good at cooking other things, but the spectre of bread kept nagging at me. I finally did some reading and realized that my mistake last time was almost certainly in mishandling the yeast. After a little digging I found a very easy recipe—if you follow the temperature specifications. A thermometer can make all the difference between bread or a brick—I didn’t have one the first time I made bread, and behold—bricks!

So anyway. Here’s a link to a decent, relatively easy bread. It’s pretty pedestrian, but it’s tasty. No doubt real bakers out there will have issues with it, but it’s a good “starter” bread. Enjoy!



  1. You girls sometimes used to ask for store bread if I remember correctly....soft white bread. Am I mistaken??

  2. Okay, check out this site!
    My grandma was green!

    Incidentally, I am on a kick to learn how to bake my own bread, too. I'll let you know how it goes. Your mom rocks!

  3. Liz W., you're right, I had no taste back then. But then, most small kids don't, they crave sugar and salt above all.

    Lizz! xoxo! Great to hear from you. Will definitely check out the site.