Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Ceremony of Baking Bread

There is something special about baking your own bread. mixing it. kneading it. shaping it. watching it. baking it. slicing it. eating it. It is quite the process. Maybe it is the smell or the taste, or the science of it with how magically it rises from such basic ingredients...or perhaps it is ritual. For so many years bread has been a staple food; one of the oldest prepared foods. Women have slaved over baking their own homemade bread for their families for years. I was reading recently about two women in today's society that got together each week alternating houses to bake bread for their family for the week. This is a beautiful part of community that was talking about in an earlier post.

I was intrigued by the thought of baking bread as a ceremony after reading "The Organic Living Book," by Kohn. (didn't catch the first name, I already brought it back to the library) In many cultures bread has significance beyond its nutrition. The simplest kind of bread is a mixture of flour and water that has been baked. This is known as "the matzoh," or unleavened bread that was made by the Hebrews of the Bible when they fled to Egypt. Bread is now a metaphor for basic necessities. "Bread" as an expression for money or "to earn one's bread" for earning livelihood. "To break bread" is to indicate the sharing of any kind of food, or in the remembrance of Jesus patterned after the last supper. Bread is basic. Essential. Symbolic. Natural.

Here is the simple whole wheat bread recipe that I used yesterday; perfect for starters and made with all natural ingredients. It really is like a ceremony...after all that hard work of making, the result is a feast! It tastes so much better knowing that you made it yourself. Thad walked in the house with a big smile because of the wonderful aroma. That is part of the ceremony too. :)

Simple Whole Wheat Bread -makes 2 loaves
-two packages of dry baking yeast
-lukewarm water
-1 Tbsp. sea salt
-1/4 c. pure safflower oil (or you could use melted butter)
-1/4 c. pure honey
-8 cups of stone-ground whole wheat flour
-1 egg
-a large mixing bowl, 2 bread pans, measuring cup and spoons, small bowl, and a towel.

1. Pour 2 packages of dry yeast into a small bowl, add 1 cup of lukewarm water. Stir and leave it for a few minutes to dissolve.

2. In large mixing bowl combine 2 1/2 cups of lukewarm water, 1 Tbsp. sea salt, 1/4 cup oil (or butter), 1/4 cup of honey, 8 cups of flour, and 1 egg.

3. Add yeast mixture and stir dough with wooden spoon until it is too hard to mix.

4.Kneading- sprinkle some flour on a large clean surface and on your hands. Flatten dough with palms enough so you can fold it in half. Press down hard on the folded dough a few times until flat and repeat. From time to time turn the dough around and flour your hands when necessary. Knead for 5-10 minutes until less sticky, firm, smooth and elastic.

5. Without washing the large bowl rub the inside with oil or butter. Form the dough into a ball and put in the bowl. Rub the top of the dough with a little oil so it does not form a hard crust. Cover the top of the bowl with a towel and set in a warm place (sunny window) until dough has risen about twice its size. This will probably take about 1 hour.

6. Punch it! That's right...make a fist and punch it! Maybe a couple times if you need to until it is punctured like a balloon. Knead dough for a few more minutes and divide into two equal parts.

7. Fold each part over a couple of times and form into the shape of a loaf. Slap it hard to break any big bubbles inside.

8. Put each loaf into a greased loaf pan and shape it until it looks how you want. For a softer crust brush oil over the top of the dough, and for a crunchy crust dip your fingers in cold water and rub over top of loaves.

9. Cover pans with a towel and let dough rise once more until doubled. About 30-40 minutes.

10. Heat oven to 350 degrees, put in bread and bake for 50 minutes.

11. Remove bread from pans immediately and let cool for a while.

12. When bread is cool you may wrap it and freeze if making multiple loaves or share with a friend.

Yummy! The aroma is amazing and stays in the house all day!...and then slicing it is a part of the ceremony as well. So is eating it! enjoy!


The Farwells said...

Mmmm... :) I think I will be making bread this afternoon!

Jenna said...

oh my....I think I will try that this weekend! :) Sounds wonderful.

Staci said...

This looks really good. I am not so much a baker but I think I will at least try this just to enjoy my own handmade bread. :)
Thank you for sharing the recipe.

Jessica said...

your bread looks wonderful! I can smell it from here...

Kristin said...

Yum... that looks so good! We're making a trip up to Kalona to replenish our baking supplies stash on Saturday. Can't wait to get back home and bake! :-)

Stefanie said...

I am definitely going to try it... I printed off the recipe!

Jamie said...

Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. I have been secretly following yours for some time. Your sister and I went on a Mission Trip to New York a few years back.

That bread looks absolutely delicious. I am planning on making a huge batch of rye bread one of these to stock up in the freezer before the baby comes.

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