I Believe in Baking Bread

Roberta - Meadville, Pennsylvania
Entered on September 3, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

I believe in baking bread. I do it a couple times a week. It’s hardly a skill I learned at my mother’s skirt. In fact, if she were invited to a kitchen shower, she’d give the woman a pair of white gloves.

I believe in baking bread for lots of reasons. It gives me a sense of kinship with women, other than my mother, stretching all the way back to biblical times. It’s fun. I like pushing and squeezing the dough. And, if I make it, I use locally produced flour that’s grown with less chemicals. It also demonstrates self-reliance to my kids, showing them that not everything has to come from a store.

We live in a small town. For years there wasn’t a bakery and we bought our bread at the grocery store. Then high fructose corn syrup became a common ingredient so I was relieved when a bakery opened up in town. Yet over time their prices rose beyond my means. What to do?

I used to suffer from yeast anxiety, and skipped any recipe that called for it. Then my mother-in-law, who’s pretty arthritic, took up bread making to comfort herself while my brother-in- law was stationed in Iraq. And, I saw yeast proofing at a friend’s house. It wasn’t scary; in fact it had a foamy, creamy consistency. So I found an easy recipe to try.

Our family friend swears by his bread machine, but I like kneading. It feels good to work my hands and shoulders in that way. And, I like the drama of bread making. How the wet and dry ingredients resist each other, then get soupy and congeal. I like how the moist, powdery dough transforms from clumps into a cohesive whole, that under my hands it becomes itself. It’s thrilling to create something that didn’t exist before.

Initially my kids hated it. They wanted the soft bread back. After school shards of bread spilled out of their lunch bags. They complained, but I kept experimenting with the balance of whole wheat and white flour until the grumbling died down.

My husband, whose two favorite food groups are toast and bananas, is so happy. Each morning he toasts two slices, spreading one with peanut butter, the other with jam.

Making bread also reminds me that in a short amount of time I can accomplish something. Sometimes life’s demands can paralyze me, yet in twenty minutes — five to proof the yeast, five to throw in the ingredients, and ten to knead — I can start two loaves of bread that will feed my family for days. And in doing so, skip a trip to the supermarket.

I believe in making bread. It’s a small act that quiets my anxiety, that nourishes my family, that connects me to the world, and makes a great trade for computer support.