The Joy of Bread Making
Transform simple ingredients into many different, delicious forms of comfort.
Bread has played a significant and powerful role in world history. Wars have been fought, civilizations destroyed and peoples’ lives affected by whether there was bread to eat. It is the most sacred and basic of foods; a staff of life that has sustained humanity for thousands of years.
I need no excuses for making bread, and I find it an especially gratifying activity to get into the kitchen and work with dough. There is something magical about the simplest of ingredients—water, yeast, flour and salt—coming together to make a dough of many guises, one that can transform itself into pizza, rolls, breadsticks, focaccia or an honest loaf.
So many people are reluctant to make bread, finding yeast a mystery and shying away from using it because of the fear of killing it. But today’s commercially produced dry yeast has been perfected so the proofing step can be skipped altogether; yeast can be added directly to the flour and salt along with the liquid ingredients. Mystery solved.
No special tools are required for making bread, and it is best to do it by hand. Relying on a bread machine takes away all the fun and leaves not a trace of a personal touch that says, “I made this by hand.”
Making bread is a meditative experience in my opinion; one that teaches us how to be patient, and allows the baker to get in tune with the process of making and kneading dough. Bread making requires paying attention to not only how the dough feels, but how it looks. The rhythmic motion of working dough with your hands is very calming, with the anticipation building of what it will become once it rises and is ready for the oven.
One of the great joys of bread baking is cracking into that hot-out-of-the-oven loaf with a golden brown crust and allowing the intoxicating aroma to waft through the kitchen. Slather some butter on, with a sprinkling of salt while the bread is still warm, and I guarantee there are few comfort foods that can compare.
Make getting your hands in dough a family activity, one that can create a lasting lifetime skill.
Mary Ann's Bread Recipes:
Piadina, Romagna's Classic Flatbread
Recco's Famous Cheese-Filled Flatbread
Focaccia with Rosemary, Black Pepper and Garlic