“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.” —M.F.K. Fisher
I find this quite fitting as I recall my very first experience of that aroma. I was 6 yrs old and the smell of fresh baked bread will forever take me back to that very moment.
My mother was in the latter part of pregnancy with my middle brother at the time. With frequent doctors appointments, false labors and preparation for the arrival, my younger brother and myself were taken to the home of the mother of a family friend, Ms Honey.
Ms Honey, with her graying hair pulled up and donned apron, recieved us at the door and from the first breath I took upon entering, to the last, I was enveloped in the fragrance of bread and strong brewed coffee.
Make bread while the oven is hot. ~ Iranian Proverbs
Each morning, she rose before the sun and by the time I arrived, bread pans covered with tea towels were rising on the stovetop and loaves baking in the oven. Ms Honey, a virtual Mother Goose, whose home always seemed to be filled with children, laid my sleeping brother amid the dreamers slumbering on makeshift pallets on the parlor floor then lead me to her kitchen.
She’d set me at the table while she lit the fire beneath the cast iron skillet, frying bacon or fat slabs of ham and scrambling eggs, all the while humming as she worked. Breakfast at Ms Honey’s house was hearty in ways seldomly seen on today’s tables and always served with thick slices of hot bread slathered in butter and dollops of jam.
“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” James Beard, the cook book author
Make do with bread and butter until God can bring you jam. ~ Arabian Proverbs
On a couple of occasions I arrived early enough to get to watch her make bread. I remember so clearly the yeasty fragrance of the dough she turned out upon a board, her floured hands, pushing and folding the gooey mass until it became supple and smooth.
Bread was truly the staff of life in Ms. Honey’s home, served at every meal, from lunchtime sandwiches made with the leftover meat of the night before to plated slices sat on the dinner table and none was ever wasted. Day old bread was toasted or cut into thick slices and egg dipped for french toast and crust ends were crumbled for meatloaf, bread pudding, stuffings and casserole toppings.
Lately, with so much time on our hands while self quarantining and the need for frugality with empty grocery shelves, many have been dusting off old skills or learning them for the first time, like cooking, stretching and using what you have, and judging from the empty flour shelves, BAKING!
The most essential staple in my pantry is flour. It’s uses are endless, from making cakes, pie crusts, dumplings, pasta, roux for gravy, sauces and thickening soups & stews, biscuits, pastries and of course….bread. I admit that I haven’t baked bread very often though I lecture the benefits compared to the chemical laden loaves we buy in the grocery. However, in these last several weeks, I’ve been making our bread at home.
Aside from the healthier option of homemade bread, it just tastes better and fills your abode with an aroma so wonderful that it speaks to the heart of warmth, comfort and of home. Did you know that one study even stated that the smell of fresh bread makes us kinder!? We could all use a bit more kindness in life….And, it’s not as difficult as you might think!
If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.” The poet Robert Browning
I’m offering 2 methods. Though one is a “slow” method, it is actually the most convenient for the busy lifestyle and working parents. Simply mix all the ingredients in a bowl at night before bed, cover it and forget it. Throw it in the oven while preparing the next evenings meal and you have fresh baked bread! If you bake it on parchment, there’s no additional cleanup. The only downfall I’ve come across is that the family will quickly become spoiled and want you to bake it all the time. Lol
No Knead Bread (slow method)
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp sugar
1.5 cups warm water
2 Tbsp melted butter
In a bowl, stir the flour, salt, yeast, sugar, butter and water until combined. Cover with plastic wrap and rest at room temperature for 8-24 hours.
Turn dough out onto a well floured surface and form a ball. (Place on parchment paper if desired.)
Rest for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, place an oven safe baking dish with high sides into the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.
Slash an “X” on top of the bread. Carefully transfer to baking dish and cover. (If using parchment paper, you can pick up the edges of the paper and transfer the dough and the paper together into the baking dish.)
Bake covered 30 minutes. Uncover and bake about 15 more minutes until quite golden brown.
Cool before slicing.
The quick Method
For a quicker loaf, soft dry ingredients together. In a separate sm bowl, combine warm water, sugar and yeast. Stir to dissolve sugar then left rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to the lowest setting. Once heated, turn off. The bowl of yeast will have become bubbly on the surface as the yeast proofs. Pour yeast and melted butter into the flour, stir until all the flour is moist, cover with plastic wrap and set in the oven for 2 hours. Bake as instructed.
I served my bread with homemade chicken noodle soup.
Remember dear friends, in times such as these –
“With bread all sorrows are less” The character Sancho Panza in Don Quixote
While we are baking, may as well add a little sweetness to our lives…
Homemade Cinnamon Rolls
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the work surface
2 tablespoons butter, melted, plus more for buttering the bowl and baking dish
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups pecans, roughly chopped
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted
Thick Cream Cheese Icing:
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup milk
For the dough: Place the yeast and 1 cup lukewarm water in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine. Fit the mixer with the dough hook and add the flour, butter, granulated sugar, salt and egg. Knead on medium-low speed until the dough forms a ball and releases easily from the sides of the bowl, about 4 minutes.
Butter a large bowl; transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover with a towel and set aside in a warm, draft-free place until the dough has doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish.
For the filling: In a medium bowl, stir together the pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and butter. Set aside.
Punch down the dough, then roll or press it into a 16-by-12-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface. Spread with the filling, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
Starting at one of the short ends, roll the dough into a cylinder and then slice into 12 rolls. Arrange the rolls, cut-side up, in four rows in the prepared baking dish. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and leave to rise in a warm, draft-free spot until nearly doubled in volume, about 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until golden on top, about 20 minutes.
For the thick cream cheese icing: Blend the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Add the milk and mix until smooth. Top the warm cinnamon buns with icing and serve.
Always with love – Laura💕