My thoughts on bread making and The Gift of Bread
Recipes for the Heart and the Table
When I was a child one of my favorite memories was watching my mother make homemade bread. My mother’s way of making bread may seem a little unconventional, but the process definitely worked. On bread baking day I would climb a chair and sit at the table mesmerized by her process. She never used a recipe, she made it all by sight and touch. After she proofed her yeast, she took a big enamel roaster (the kind you roast a turkey) and added a 5 lb. sack of Cinderella flour. After the flour came the shortening, salt, sugar, yeast then to this she added warm water. With the exception of the flour everything was done without measuring. As she kneaded the dough she would feel the texture and know if she needed more water to achieve the beautiful elastic consistency she always managed to create. Not once did I ever see her add more flour, or adjust anything else. She knew from experience and feel what she needed to do to have her dough turn out beautifully each and every time.
After the dough was silky and smooth she covered the roaster with its lid then wrapped the roaster in blankets to keep it warm and free of any drafts. My mother always gave her bread dough three risings. Two in the roaster and one in the pans. I swear it’s what made the bread crusty on the outside, but chewy and light as a feather on the inside. I always ran into the house when she punched it down for the first time. When she lifted that lid and the pungent smell of the yeast hit your nose there was nothing like it in the world, well that is besides slicing and eating it warm from the oven. My mother was always at her best in the kitchen baking and cooking for those she loved.
Today I try to carry on some of my mom’s favorite traditions and baking bread is just one of them. Try as I might though, after all these years I have never managed to create a loaf of bread the same way she did. I have however, managed to find a lot of great bread recipes and I’ve collected many bread cookbooks through the years. And even though I have enough cookbooks to fill a small library, I couldn’t stop myself from buying my latest find The Gift of Bread: Recipes for the Heart and the Table by Karen Whiting. This book is not just a cookbook full of bread recipes. This is a book where bread is lived spiritually, physically and emotionally. It is as she calls it a “cookbook devotional”. Each beautiful chapter starts with a short scripture passage, followed by a short personal story of family or friends followed by Lovin’ From The Lord where the author shares a biblical passage always related to meals or breaking bread. She includes a Food For Thought and concludes each chapter with The Joy of Bread Making where the reader gets countless kitchen tips or Lovin’ From The Oven where the author shares wonderful bread or muffin recipes for family and friends to enjoy. The finishing touch at the end of each chapter is A Morsel of Bread, a small quote that gives you food for thought for your day.
In rating this book I would easily give it 5 *****. To describe it I would use one of two words, DELIGHTFUL or INSPIRATIONAL. This is a book I plan to refer to again and again and not just for the recipes. The personal stories and scriptural passages in regards to relationships and food are so well thought out. An all-around gem of a book that will not only feed your hunger, but feed your heart and soul too.
In closing I wanted to note that the above picture is one I took of Karen Whiting’s book The Gift of Bread and the loaves of bread sitting by it are two loaves I made from one of the recipes in the book. The Amish White Bread was light and delicious and easy to make. Because my daughters occasionally, but lovingly call me out for tweaking recipes I will be honest and say the only thing I did differently was in using instant yeast verses dry active yeast. Dry active yeast you typically proof first, whereas instant yeast you just add it to the flour. I also shaped the loaves by hand instead of using a loaf pan. I like to have fun and do creative things when making bread, but that was it. Soft and yummy the bread was a hit.
So if you are a novice and would like to make some bread for the first time, or an old pro like my mom, The Gift of Bread: Recipes for the Heart and the Table is sure to be the inspiration to get you motivated to make and break bread.
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