It Takes a Little Kneading

 

 

There are many things that I do for my family, friends and people who I do not even know. One thing that I enjoy doing for others is cooking/baking. While I like the process of taking not very good tasting ingredients by themselves (have you ever tasted plain flour or vegetable shortening, YUCK!) and making them into something that tastes divine, my joy is in the act of giving. I feel that this is one thing that I do well; people can enjoy this gift and it can nourish them both physically and emotionally. Is there a favorite food that you had growing up that when you have it now it takes you back years?

When my family smells those warm, sweet fragrances wafting from the oven, their first question is, “Is this for us, or is it for someone else?” I have to admit that more than 50% of the time, it is for someone else. I do feel guilty and there have been times when I make twice as much so they can enjoy some for themselves.

There is one smell that drifts out the kitchen and throughout our home that everyone knows is for no one else but them, bread. When that light, fresh smell melds in with the other familial scents in our home, they know it is for them and only them.

I have now gotten to the point that I make fresh bread every four or five days. It is the most basic of recipes, milk, bread four, salt, pepper, butter and yeast. How can you go wrong with that? What I have started doing is using the white spongy dough as my canvas. An artist would never leave a canvas blank. It is filled with life, their joys, and sorrows, or poured out on that blank slate. I would not say that I have gone that far, no sorrow in my bread making but I have used a lot of love and joy in this new venture.

Sometimes my bread has a theme. One loaf I named “Four Shades of Red.” (Had a hard time visualizing gray bread!) Then there are breads that are themed based on the week. There was a loaf in honor of the beginning of fall. Then there was the purple and white loaf in recognition of the high school‘s homecoming. My last loaf was orange, white and black in anticipation of Halloween. I did make a completely orange loaf of bread. The family was not very fond of that. They definitely prefer multi-colored bread.

You would think that I would have thought of this when my children were younger. How fun it would have been for them to pick out their colors for their special loaf of bread. But NOOOOO, I had to wait until they were in high school. They have a lot of fun with it though and sometimes they will ask me why I chose the colors I did. It should be noted that my children take a sack lunch to school. With the new government guidelines on school food, they say that the meals are bland and not filling. They relish the thought of taking their own food, chosen for their likes, to school. This also means that all of their friends, classmates and teachers see their artistry bread. (Notice I did not say artisan.) Teachers have walked up to them and asked, “What is wrong with your bread?” My son commented back when asked that question, “My mom is just bored.”

The funny thing is that I am far from bored. It takes a lot of extra time to knead in those colorings. I don’t use gloves so I can go a couple of days with colored hands. While to save time I do use a machine for kneading the bread, I do the last kneading and forming by hand and then bake it in the oven. This does take time out of my already busy schedule. But they are more than worth it.

I do this out of love. If my family didn’t enjoy it, I wouldn’t continue. They know that I do this especially for them. If they did not know that or appreciate it, I would still bake bread but it would probably be plain ol’ white bread. I would find something that they did appreciate. I would find a gift that would make them feel special. I have thought about marketing my artist bread but realized it would no longer be special for them.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming up. You can bet there will be more brown, gold and orange bread and green and red bread. I will probably even make blue and white bread as a recognition for Hanukkah. I may have high schoolers for children but I am still that mom who wants to make her family feel special. While I may bake a lot for others, I have found this one thing that is exclusively for them.

What do you do that is exclusively for your loved ones?  Do you have traditions that are a treasure for you? Let’s talk about that. I will share in my next post family traditions from when I was growing up to traditions that have been created for my family. Think hard and I look forward to sharing.

Believe it or not I have only made coffee twice this week. That is why there have been no coffee posts. It is mid afternoon so my first cup of coffee for the day, may have to contain some Irish Creme. I’ll let you know.

Bread ingredients:   4 C. bread flour, 13 oz. warm milk, 2 T butter, 2.5 T sugar, 1.5 t. salt and 2.25 t. active dry yeast.

Bread Pudding

I said I might write about bread pudding today and decided it was a quirky topic and I should just go for it. Who knows how this will develop. We will go on this journey together.

I love bread pudding! Whenever I see it on the menu, I will order it for dessert. That is quite the commentary because I generally never order dessert from a restaurant. I then make a judgement of the restaurant based on how I liked the bread pudding. I do the same when it comes to eggplant parmesan in Italian restaurants and tamales in Mexican restaurants.

I like my bread pudding to be moist but not so moist that you can’t differentiate the torn (or cut) pieces of bread. It has to have the perfect consistency that doesn’t taste mushy in my mouth. It needs to be not too dry, not too wet. Just like Goldilocks, it needs to be just right.

It can be chocolate bread pudding or banana or just plain ol’ bread pudding. What is a delicacy, but really adds to my enjoyment, is a warmed rum butter sauce. In fact, I would say a standard bread pudding with a warmed rum butter sauce and oh yea, nuts sprinkled on top is the best of the best.

I guess I am somewhat like bread pudding. I am just a plain ol’ girl from the Midwest. I like to think that I have good values that are simple to follow; be nice, give back to the community through service, and raise a family that is respected by the community. I think that whatever you believe in, you need to be consistent and follow through. As a Christian, I believe I should be in church every Sunday. Yes, there may be days that I would rather stay under my nice warm quilts, but going to church is the least I can do to thank God for allowing me to wake up every morning.

I would like to live a simple life. How wonderful it would be to not be tied to a computer for communication or a cellphone for that same reason. How nice it would be to wake up in the morning and only need to worry about making the best home for my family and volunteering to make my community a better place to live.

All very simple. You know there has to be a but coming though don’t you…

BUT that is not the reality of our world. We need to be connected to our electronic world. That is just the way it is. If it weren’t for the internet, I would not be blogging and you would not be reading this post right now. If it weren’t for the cellphone, I wouldn’t be able to have a sense of security knowing that I can get a hold of my children when I need that connection. Our family has been able to learn about the world and our country because of our traveling. What a wonderful opportunity we have had that many have not.

Those things are the rum butter sauce and nuts. Without those extras, the food is good (life) but the extras help me appreciate everything that this world has to offer. Without the internet or our traveling, our world would be so small. I am so glad that we have been able to expand our children’s scope of the world because of those extras.

So while my simple rules for life are good, because of the rum sauce and nuts, my life does seem more complete. There are days when I just am bread pudding and have no toppings. I clean my home, run errands for the whole family, bake/cook and do all of those domestic things that I just love. More times than not, there is so much more going on that it gets crazy. There are days that not only is there rum sauce and nuts, but sprinkles and whipped cream or maybe a flambe’ is made by adding rum and catching it on fire. Those days when I have added a little too many extras, make me a little crazy and I feel overwhelmed. The simple life helps me appreciate those extras and conversely the extras help me appreciate when things are simple. In that way, my life is complete.

How is your life complete, are you a plain bread pudding or are you someone with a few toppings or an overload?

My coffee latte for the day was Almond Joy; chocolate, almond and coconut.