When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other.
- Chinese Proverb
There is something humble yet deeply satisfying about a loaf of bread. The plainest and most basic of foods, bread still satisfies like no other food can. Before we became a gluten free family or “glutards” as my sister affectionately call us, I loved to make bread. When I left work to have our first child I taught myself to make bread by hand by working my way through Jamie Oliver’s recipes. I had many failures in the beginning. There were the flat hard loaves that didn’t rise; fluffy yeasty loaves with an abundance of holes; dough’s like chewing gum and dough’s like glue. After a while I began to get a knack for it, and before long I instinctively knew how to bring the flour and liquid together into a soft round ball.
|Silky dough after its risen for the first time|
My bread became famous around my husbands station on nightshift week where it would be presented as contribution to the communal midnight snack. I loved to make bread for friends if they were ill, new mothers, and parents of sick children in hospital. Having been all of those things myself I knew how wonderful and fortifying a fresh loaf of bread was in a crisis.
Making bread for someone else is an act of service. The dough must be kneaded by hand for 5 wrist-aching minutes before being lovingly wrapped up in a towel to prove. After it’s risen for the first time there is the heart breaking moment when you knock out all of that hard-won air and it returns to an insignificant limp ball. There is the decision to make – will it be a plain loaf, a plaited design, will you stuff it with herbs or sink your fingers into it to make focaccia? It must be left to rise a second time and then the best moment arrives – you can finally place it into a hot oven. I must tell you that this will also be the moment that you’ll have a guilty pang of jealousy
for the recipient of your loaf because it looks and smells so amazingly good.
|Bread stuffed with basil and pine nut pesto ready for the oven|
This week a school mum I know had a new baby. I saw it as the perfect opportunity for me to both bless her with a meal and get stuck into some real bread dough for the first time all year. I have all of that pesto I made yesterday. Yes, that pesto. Fresh, white, fluffy bread and basil pesto is a fine match so this blessedly child-free morning I put on some classical music and set to kneading.
Next time I must remember the golden rule - make a loaf for yourself too!