A person’s “bread and butter” is his or her main source of sustenance, while “bread” or “dough” can be cash; and when people “break bread” they share more than just a meal. Bread brings people together in body as well as spirit.
The love of bread runs deep in my family. Recently, on the way home from the store, I looked over to witness my 18 year old gnawing on the end of an Italian loaf of bread we had just bought. Without missing a beat, he asked, “Want some.” Well, why not, I thought, as I tore off a piece. If only we kept butter in the car.
Bread baking was an important part of Cole’s early Waldorf education. Each week, the children would recite
Before the mill, the grain
The sun, the earth, the rain
The beauty of God’s will.
as they went about their weekly bread making: mixing and kneading, rising, shaping, proofing, and finally, baking. The best verse came when the bread was ready to eat:
Slice, slice, the bread looks nice.
Spread, spread butter on the bread.
On the top put jam so sweet,
Now it’s nice for us to eat.
The smell was still lingering when we picked the children up, and parents were often offered a piece of buttery bread, which was indeed nice to eat.
Intrigued with the bread-making process, I cautiously asked the teacher in charge of bread baking (thank your Ilene) if it was difficult. She quickly reassured me that bread baking was something anyone could do with a few ingredients and some time. She went on to share some tips and a simple bread recipe.
Inspired, I gave bread making a try, and when I pulled that golden brown loaf out of the oven, I realized that the gal who could not cook could make bread. Basic bread making pairs well with my basic cooking skills. Measurements don’t have to be exact (a little more or a little less of anything won’t ruin the loaf) and self-rising yeast is fail proof. Moreover, bread ingredients are familiar. A simple loaf of bread can be made with flour, sugar, water, eggs, milk, and yeast, with added salt and baking powder as called for. Back in the days when I made bread with Cole, we did everything by hand. Bread making does not require special appliances, and clean-up is minimal.
The one thing bread does take is time, and as life moved on, I didn’t have the time to loaf around making bread. Bread dough can be frozen, but that idea never appealed to me, so for a number of years, we bought our bread at Chicago bakeries—hardly a sacrifice since Chicago has some wonderful bakeries with delicious fresh bread. Still it wasn’t hot, and I missed the smell of fresh bread baking.
Fast forward to last year’s Chicago’s polar vortex winter, when I was looking for something warm to bake that didn’t require a trip to the grocery store. Rummaging through the pantry, I found a lone pack of yeast, it was a sign to make bread! In no time, the smell of fresh bread was wafting from the oven, and my love for baking bread was rekindled as we slathered butter on slices of warm bread straight from the oven. I continued to make bread all last winter, took a break over the summer, and made my first loaf of Sally Lunn bread this past week. I learned about Sally Lunn bread while having lunch at a Southern Diner.
Sally Lunn bread, according to legend, was invented by eighteenth-century baker Sally Lunn in England and was then brought over to the southern colonies. Back in the day, it was baked into buns and spread with clotted cream. These days it’s prepared in a tube pan and served with butter and jam. It’s very easy to make, and my home reviews are 5 star.
This is the recipe I use to make one loaf of Sally Lunn bread.
1 Cup warm milk
Envelope active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon table salt
Large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup butter, melted
1. Stir together first 3 ingredients in a 2-cup glass measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.
2. Stir together flour and next 2 ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in eggs until well blended. (Dough will look shaggy.) Stir together warm water and baking soda. Stir yeast mixture, soda mixture, and melted butter into flour mixture until well blended.
3. Spoon batter into a well-greased 10-inch (14-cup) tube pan. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place (80° to 85°), 45 minutes to 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
4. Preheat oven to 400°. Carefully place pan in oven. (Do not agitate dough.) Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from pan to a wire rack, and cool 30 minutes before slicing.
Tips (yes cooking tips from ME)
I cover my bread in white flour sack dish towels—it makes me feel more bread-maker like and they make me happy. I only use these towels for bread making.
Don’t over mix this bread recipe. It can easily be mixed with a large spoon and should stay a little lumpy.
We cut our bread right away. By the time it comes out of the oven, we feel that we have waited long enough—unless you are serving it to company who cares if it falls apart.
Sally Lunn bread goes great with chili and stews.
The last bread making verse I found in my tried and true Waldorf notebook went something like this:
We mix the dough
We knead the dough
We let it rise…
We punch the dough
And pat the dough
It grows before our eyes…
Hot, brown loaf
From a little ball
It rises up
to feed us all
Make a simple loaf of bread, add fresh butter, and you and your loved ones will enjoy a wonderful feast.
Odd Loves Company,
Note: I own an Ez-Doh manual bread maker, which I love it, but I always take the dough out of the bucket and knead it by hand after it has been mixed. The dough just feels so warm and delightful. DELIGHTFUL!