It’s been nearly a year since I wrote about my fear of making bread. I resolved last New Year’s to confront my fear and start making bread. Did I do it? Technically speaking, yes. I made a few quick breads – like cranberry and pumpkin – and Jamie’s Beer Bread and my mom’s Irish Soda bread, both quick and delicious. But did I venture into the realm of yeast bread? No.
The Anderson family gathered for the holidays at my parent’s house in Pennsylvania. Sharon and Tony, who had said they would be in charge New Year’s Eve dinner, came with a carload of food, beverage, utensils, kitchen gadgets…and their sourdough starter (doesn’t everyone travel with a sourdough starter?). They made fresh bread for us every day. Atkins Diet followers and lovers what you are about to read may disturb you so perhaps just skip to the next paragraph: between six of us we’d eat a loaf for breakfast – sliced, toasted and topped with eggs, jam or just plain butter. At dinner we would eat an entire loaf, using chunks of bread to clean our salad plates and to scoop up the last remaining bites of pasta sauce. There is something simply irresistible about fresh baked bread.
As Sharon made bread each morning, I sat on the periphery, half watching. Honestly, I was jealous that my little sister was turning out fresh bread faster than hotcakes and making it look so easy. But the more I watched, it looked like a pretty straightforward process.
I finally plucked up the courage and said I’d like to try. We had enough ‘regular’ bread in the house and it was a lazy Friday morning so I aimed high and decided to make swirly cinnamon bread. We did a little Googling to learn about making cinnamon swirl bread. Mom and Sharon were in the kitchen with me, overseeing, but I did it on my own. Dare I say it was easy?
The hardest part for someone like me is the waiting. I am not a patient person. But impatience, coupled with excitement, meant that I checked on my dough every fifteen minutes for four hours. I kept my bowl of rising dough by the warmth of the fire so that it would rise a bit faster (though Sharon tells me that the faster the dough rises, the less flavor it develops). I kept peeking under the towel to see that smooth, round ball growing and to smell that sweet, yeasty dough, with a hint of cinnamon.
By the time we finished dinner on Friday night, my two loaves were coming out of the oven. Though we had just polished off a loaf of Sharon and Tony’s sourdough bread with dinner, we couldn’t resist cutting into the loaf and trying it. We all agreed it was perfect, a delicious balance of savory and sweet. The next morning we toasted thick slices of my cinnamon bread and spread them with butter. The family loved it and I felt proud.
On our way back to the city Andy and I stopped at the grocery store. I picked up a big jar of yeast, a sack of bread flour and made another batch of dough. This time, I made rolls to go with the soup we had for dinner. I’m grateful to Sharon and Tony for the sourdough starter and for showing me that making bread is easy and so worth it.