My obsession with bread

I am obsessed with making bread. There I, said it. There is something therapeutic about turning 7 cups of flour into a warm, homey, fresh-baked loaf of bread. It feels very traditional, like I could put on a ‘frock’ and a matching apron, with my hair neatly done in a chignon, and prepare my family a meal made from love.

Yeah, for anyone who knows me, this “traditional” June Cleaver persona is atypical to my every day being, but every once in a while, I find her waiting to come out and bless my family with her fabulous homemaker skills. Hence, the bread making.

My sister sent me a book on how to make a larger batch of dough, one that allows you to quickly make home-made bread every night of the week. I honestly can’t wait to do it, but until I find time to read the book, I will have to settle for my Sunday afternoon adventures in bread making.

Cooking in general has always been therapeutic for me, but baking not so much. The last time I spent an hour creating what was going to be the most impressive dessert ever (a hot chocolate cake with home-made marshmallows), the cake ended up in the garbage. I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many things were wrong with it – never even made it to the table. But bread making is different.

The simplicity of dissolving yeast, adding flour, and letting my KitchenAid Mixer go to work for 2 minutes is calming. The time it takes the dough to rise is quality time spent with the kids. Punching the dough, cutting it in half, and rolling it out is absolute stress reduction. The final rise and bake? Perfection. The ultimate sense of accomplishment.

If you haven’t tried it, I highly recommend it. A couple bags of flour, a couple envelopes of yeast, and some butter, and you will always have fresh made bread on hand. Besides, who doesn’t like a good sense of accomplishment to close out the weekend?

Listed below, courtesy of foodtv.com and Emeril Lagasse, is the garlic knot recipe I’m making tonight!

Ingredients

  • Basic Pizza Dough, recipe follows
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Directions

Prepare Basic Pizza Dough as recipe instructs below and set aside to rise.

Combine butter and garlic in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Cover, remove from the heat and set aside. Keep warm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and lightly grease 2 large baking sheets. Set aside.

Remove risen dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll dough out into a large rectangle, about 16 by 12 inches. Brush the dough lightly with the olive oil. Cut the dough in half lengthwise and then cut crosswise into strips about 1 1/4 inches wide. Tie each strip loosely into a knot, stretching gently if necessary, and place on prepared baking sheets about 2-inches apart. Sprinkle the tops of the knots with salt. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 30 minutes.

Bake until golden brown and risen, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and toss gently with the warm garlic butter, Pecorino Romano cheese, and parsley. Add salt to taste if necessary. Serve immediately.

Basic Pizza Dough:

1 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)

1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast

1 teaspoon honey

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

Yellow cornmeal, for sprinkling the baking sheet

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, honey, and 1 tablespoon oil, stirring to combine. Let sit until the mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt, mixing by hand until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Continue adding the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, working the dough after each addition, until the dough is smooth but still slightly sticky. You may not need all of the flour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth but still slightly tacky, 3 to 5 minutes.

Oil a large mixing bowl with remaining olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl, turning to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place, free from drafts until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 hours.

Yield: dough for 1 (15-inch) pizza

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2 Comments

Filed under Recipes

2 responses to “My obsession with bread

  1. organicgal

    Boy can I relate! I used to ask: What is it about breadmaking? Even the staunchest feminists now say that cooking and baking are empowering because of all the hungry men that bend to our will in exchange for the next morsel, but I think there’s more to it than enslaved men, avoiding traffic & grocery store lines, and helping mother earth–I think it is cathartic and relaxing to bake. Why is that?

    Today, you answered my question! 🙂

  2. Organicgal,

    I’ve been thinking about this (for a long time, obviously!). I actually hate baking in general. I consider making bread a totally different class of cooking. My baking normally sucks, for lack of a better term. Give me a sautee pan and some pasta and fun ingredients and I’m at my happiness.

    But making bread requires that you put a lot of love into it – that you spend some time helping it along. There’s something nurturing about it, and although the feminists have their own views, I think that it makes me feel a little June Cleaverish. It makes me want to put on an apron, pull my hair back, and be old fashioned. And since I spend 95% of my life connected to my iPhone, work e-mails, travel schedule, and technology, I like this little bit of old fashioned good mom/good wife creeping into my life here and there.

    I am feeling another blog post coming on…:)

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