Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Raffaele Imperiale - Making Bread the Old Fashioned Way

Raffaele Imperiale - Making Bread the Old Fashioned Way

Sally's bicycle bread.

It’s been a long time since I’ve baked bread using no implements but my hands, a wooden spoon, and an oven. That's because marvelous inventions over the last few decades mechanized home bread baking. Appliances such as the KitchenAid mixer with its dough hook, and countless versions of bread baking machines, took the muscle out of baking bread, and I believe, much of the joy. After having used these inventions for many years, I am now afraid I may have lost the ability to make an exquisite loaf of bread the old fashioned way, even though I try to assure myself that I couldn't possibly have forgotten how, just as they say you never forget how to ride a bike.

Baking Bread the Modern Way - Did I Forget How To Use My Hands?

I succumbed to this modernization a number of years ago, when my daughter was young and I began to bake bread for a small home business. My father-in-law bought me the most magnificent time saver in the world, the KitchenAid mixer. There wasn't (and still isn't) anything that machine can't do. It kneads bread, grinds meats, slices and dices vegetables, makes ice cream and pasta, and more. I used it then to mix and knead big batches of white bread, rye bread, whole wheat bread, cinnamon raisin bread, challah, pumpernickel, monkey bread, sour dough, and well, I forget the others. It was a long time ago.

Later in my life, after my daughter was on her own, I started traveling for my job. Being away from home for three to five days a week, I seldom used the KitchenAid for an inspired cooking session of any kind. Then, bread was in my house only by the graces of the bakery. But my mother missed my home-made breads, and gifted me with a new-fangled bread baking machine, which I loved. But unlike the KitchenAid, the bread baking machine malfunctioned after a few years, and I was back to the bakery.

Even though I found a number of store-bought breads I liked, I eventually tired of them. I now longed for the old fashioned breads I used to make by hand. I missed the smell of yeast as it awakens and the fragrance of a fresh loaf pulled from the oven. I missed the rhythmic motion of kneading, letting my mind go free as my hands sank into, pushed, and turned the warm raw dough. Odd as it may seem, I even missed cleaning up the mess that home-made bread baking always leaves behind.

A few days ago, I decided it was time to get back to basics. I bought yeast and eggs. I had butter, flour, salt, and sugar on hand, and there was no store-bought bread in the house to fall back on. I was ready!

Conquering the Fear of Hands On

But I wasn't quite ready. Fear washed over me as I doubted my ability to pull this off. It had been such a long time. What if I kill the yeast with water too hot? What if I've forgotten the feel of dough when it is at just the right consistency for shaping and baking? What if, in this cold and dank season, I can’t find a warm place for the yeast to work? What if my timing's wrong? What if, what if, what if?

I faced my fear with the idea that baking the perfect loaf of bread is like riding a bicycle. You never forget the feel of the balance. My Raleigh ten-speed is in my garage, not ridden for 12 years. I know that if I take it out of there and get on (given that the wheels, gears, and chains are in good condition), I will sail. So, I ventured out to bake my bread, just as I had ventured out to ride my black and chrome Schwinn Streamliner as a child when my Uncle Al ran beside me to help me balance on my own. I trusted him and learned to ride. I remember how good he was to me, and his memory will be warm in my heart in the act of baking this bread. Now, I feel as though I am holding his hand, trusting myself to ressurect the feel, the balance of creating a loaf of bread with my own hands.

What I haven't told you yet is that I am writing these words as this celebratory batch of bread is in the making. If you bake bread by hand, then you know it's a five or more hour process with lots of wait time in between. I am taking the wait time to write my thoughts. You will be with me as the bread succeeds or fails.

Remembering Learning How To Make Bread

My family taught me well about cooking and food. However, none of my family taught me how to bake bread. I learned how to bake bread from a special friend, Cheryl, and from Fannie Farmer.

Cheryl’s secret of success was wine, and plenty of it, consumed with gusto during the five hours it takes to make two loaves. I swear, she was the best bread baking teacher. She told me the wine made her hands stronger, and therefore the bread lighter.

As for Fannie, well, she’s just plain brilliant. You can’t go wrong when you follow her recipes and baking methods. All of the bread recipes I developed in my early years have their roots in Cheryl’s light, assured, and bubbly style and in Fannie’s basic white bread recipe.

Original Source: http://hubpages.com/hub/Remembering-How-To-Bake-Bread-and-Ride-a-Bicycle

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