Thursday, May 5, 2011

All Sorrows are Less with Bread

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.  

Smells good 

 Next time I must remember the golden rule - make a loaf for yourself too!

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