In the past few months, there were three “Celebration of Life” ceremonies balanced by two baby showers, and most plans or ideas didn’t come into fruition. From December to the present, my personal life is emotionally chaotic. However, my faith remains strong for recognizing such erratic energy is temporary. Along with life’s mandatory priorities, the time spent working on My Life Runs On Food is a simple pleasure.
One of my personal goals this year is to learn the process of making bread from scratch. There’s a picture in Dad’s kitchen with his first loaves of homemade bread. I remember that day as a child, because the picture was taken by me. We all know the difference in taste of homemade versus commercial store bread. That’s a known fact. In New York, like other major cities, there are plenty of beautiful artisan bakeries of intense passion. It does seem contrite and unnecessary to spend a whole day baking bread.
Why have I decided to make bread from scratch? As mentioned before, when life is erratic with extreme emotional ups, downs and steep declines, the remedy for balance is staying focus and busy. January 2011 is a good time to start learning how to bake bread. There’s much to do, but then there isn’t much to do. In between regulating life from going into a steep decline, projects are created to keep the mind busy. Quite honestly, I can sleep all day or sob tears of “why of me.” It’s happened, but the next day a recipe needs experimentation, photographs are taken, and a food post is written.
The early morning after I learned a friend was tragically murdered, my mind was racing of anxiety, unease and sorrow. It was 6:30 a.m. Before noon, the second phase of dough was rising, banana bread was cooling on a wire rack, and the base of an ice cream was chilling in the refrigerator. It was the second loaf of bread made since successfully making it for the first time the previous week. By noon, Dad called to say hello, and I told him the news. “Times like this, you keep the mind busy,” he said, “Be careful of eating too much bread.”
Two loaves of Honey Wheat Bread, Banana Pecan Bread, Orange French Toast, Vanilla Chai Ice Cream, and a pound of Cornmeal Lime Cookies later, I came across an article of an influential celebrity discussing a low point in their life. It was also a time period, in which her weight increased. Comfort food became her consolation. It’s called emotional eating. I’m doing it quite well.
Currently, my life is being rebalanced. This past week, other non-food related tasks were completed. The boyfriend and I are starting on a long-term project together. The snow is finally melting, in which running outdoors is a safer addiction. An application for a recently opened yoga center was completed and emailed. Rethinking problems has become a new goal.
Of course, the goal of learning to make bread hasn’t been abandoned. The process of baking is seriously easy. It does require long hours, but most of time it’s hands free. The one or two hours of dough rising, is time spent on another project, and each step is less than 15 minutes of handling the dough. For this temporary household of one, I’m looking forward to baking a loaf of bread once of week in the midst of creating projects to keep my mind active.
To “Break Bread” is to share one’s love. In my situation, I’m “breaking bread” to distribute emotional feelings on non-food related individual tasks. In addition, breads, ice creams, and cookies are not consumed alone. My circle of friends is expanding. I’m discovering they’re many people who are dealing with a whirlwind of emotions right now, and there’s plenty of bread to share at my house.
Honey Wheat Bread
3 cups flour; plus more as needed
1/2 cup wheat flour
2 tsp. salt
1+1/2 tsp. instant yeast
2 tbsp. honey
2+1/2 tbsp. butter, room temperature; plus more as needed
Scant 1+1/3 cups organic whole milk
1. In a food processor, place both flours, salt and yeast in the container. Process for five seconds.
2. While the machine is running, add honey, milk, and butter through the feed tube. Process for only 30 seconds. The dough should be well defined, barely sticky and easily form ball. If too dry, add 1 tbsp. of milk and process for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat if necessary. If it is too wet, add a tbsp. white flour and process briefly. Remove dough from the container and knead on a lightly flour surface.
3. Grease a large bowl with olive oil or extra room temperature butter. Shape dough into a ball, place it in the large, greased bowl. Either cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let dough rise for at least two hours, or until it doubles in size.
4. Deflate the risen dough and shape it into a ball, again. Place on a flour surface. Cover and let rise for one hour.
5. Shaping the dough into a loaf: On a lightly flour surface with floured hand, flatten dough. Use the heel of the hand to shape dough into a roughly, irregular rectangle. Then fold both of the long sides of the rectangle dough toward the center. In the center, where the edges of the long sides meet, pinch them tightly together to close the seam. Then tuck the short side of the dough underneath the rectangle, toward the side with the closed seam. Place dough in a greased (with butter) 9×5-inch loaf pan, seam side down. Using the back of the hand, press dough into place firmly. Cover the pan and let the dough rest for at least one hour, or until it has risen to nearly the top edge of the pan.
6. Preheat oven to 350°F. Brush dough very lightly with water. Then pan in the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf makes a hollow sound when it is tapped. The bread easily falls out of the pan when it is completely done. Let cool on a wire rack before slicing.
Note: Recipe from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything.