There I sat at the kitchen table sobbing into my flour covered apron. Its not a pretty picture when a middle-aged woman pitches a fit in her own kitchen. Why the meltdown? I wanted to make my own loaf bread.
I had became incensed at the high price of bread.
The hearty artisan breads were nearly $3.00. I craved their satisfying wholesomeness. But they were beyond my budget. Instead what I purchased was the bottom tier of the store brand – wheat bread at $0.99. No taste, no texture, diminished nutritional value. I’m not even sure why the bread was brown. It certainly was not whole wheat. Difficult digestive issues supported my suspicions. Use your imagination here.
I was miffed. Why did the most basic of human foods cost so much? Why so exclusive? For centuries grains have been grinded, mixed and kneaded into nourishing bread. How hard can it be? I decided to give it a try. I called on my friend Dee, a traditional homemaker, to became my bread making mentor.
“Denise its really nothing to it. You just have to feel your way through the process. The more you do it the more easier it will get.”
Dee described to me a rather straightforward process. Good. I like simple. I found a great recipe for whole wheat bread, got all my ingredients together and I was good to go.
AWE SHUCKS! The recipe called for 6 cups of whole wheat flour. That’s a normal amount. But what’s not normal is to keep adding a heavy, coarse flour even when the soft dough turns into the texture of sandpaper. The recipe said to knead the dough for about 11 minutes. So I did, often adding water to the keep the sandpaper stuck together. The results: 2 yummy smelling loaves of BRICKS. I pouted a little bit. No biggy. This was my first try. I called Dee for more advice.
“Sounds like you kneaded it too long. And your flour may have been too heavy. Different brands of flour will give you different results.” What?! Flour brands differ? But the recipe….
“Denise you’ve got to feel your way through the bread making process. Just pay attention to what the dough is doing.” I can’t wing this! I’m recipe dependent. I should be in a 12 step program sponsored by the Food Network.
Forget it. I bought a loaf of bread from the grocery store.
Two weeks later, Dee’s words were still echoing in my head: “Feel the dough. Let the dough guide what you do….” I tried a second batch.
WHAAAT?!! My nicely risen bread turned into a heavy lump in the oven. My eyes filled with tears.
I calmed myself – “Keep it together Denise. Its only bread. You can do this. Women do this everyday around the world. C’mon now. Put on your big girl panties and call Dee!” I’m my best cheerleader.
“But Dee I never knew that preheating the oven was all that important!!” Not during the dog days of a Georgia summer.
Forget it. I bought a loaf of bread.
Denial began to set in – maybe its not me, it’s the recipe. I found another recipe that called for a 50/50 mix of the softer white wheat flour and bread flour. O yeah. I got this!
WAHHH!! O DEAR LORD PUT ME OUT OF MY MISERY NOW! I forgot to add SALT and had the complete meltdown described in the beginning.
My husband Billy – my second best cheerleader – encouraged me not to give up. As long as I kept trying I always stood a chance of succeeding.
Billy and Dee were right. It just takes practice. Now I make 2 loaves of bread each week.
That is if the artisan loaves aren’t on sale!
BTW: I finally found a bread recipe I loved posted by blogger Carol Winn on Mother Earth News.