Opinion: Winter loafing

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Been baking a lot of bread lately. I do this when there’s snow on the ground, or in the forecast, or within the realm of seasonal possibility. In other words, it’s how I pass the winter. Summer, autumn and spring I buy bread, but in the winter I’m a bread-bakin’ fool.

I guess it’s my version of the panic response that sends people to the store for French toast ingredients – milk, eggs and bread – every time the weather loonies on TV bring up the possibility of more than a half-inch of winter precipitation. I run to the store, too, except I go for flour and yeast.

So, anyway, lately there has been a lot of loafing around at my house. Bread loafing.

Because I am a little out of practice – it’s been at least a year since I baked – I started with trying to make some good-old plain white bread. When it’s right, you can’t beat a loaf of homemade white bread still warm from the oven. It brings back memories of Grandma cutting me a big slice of freshly baked bread, spreading it thickly with butter and strawberry jam and handing it to me with a peck on the cheek and a pat on the head. Which is weird, because my grandmother never did any of those things. As long as I knew her, she bought her bread from the bread man or at the grocery store.

Well, my bread started out promisingly enough, I guess, but something happened along the way. It never did rise properly and when I baked it, it came out … well, let’s just say that one of the loaves is presently holding up the sofa where the leg broke off.

Undaunted, I pressed on, baking loaf after loaf, adjusting things here, fixing things there, until I finally produced a loaf of white bread that didn’t automatically go into the basket where we keep the bird food. It rose nice and high, had a good crust and a tender crumb, and actually tasted like something you might want to eat. I was back in the game.

Next stop was whole wheat bread. Now, whole wheat is tricky. You talk about baking bricks … if you haven’t done it before, or have laid off for a while, whole wheat flour can produce a loaf of outstanding building material. It took me nearly an entire bag of flour to produce one I could actually slice and chew. I’m saving the others for when I repave the backyard walkway this spring.

I used to make a pretty good loaf of rye bread and it might be nice to try again. It’ll probably take me a few tries but that’s ok. The pathway needs more pavers.

 


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