When we reflect on culinary choices this time of the year our tastes take us to vigorous moist meatloaves, hearty stews, flavorful soups, casseroles bursting with root vegetables, succulent pot pies and chicken and dumplings. These types of meals seem to soothe us as we appreciate their warmth and savory flavors warming our insides. There is something about a stewpot simmering in the kitchen or a casserole bubbling over in the oven that lets everyone know there is a caring cook in control. Comfort foods are forgiving foods, easygoing and open to provisions and substitutions. They are special to your ………….
family and guests because they feel welcomed, comforted and nourished. We all have memories of the aroma of baked bread, the most appreciated comfort food, filling our nostrils as it cooled on the kitchen counter teasing us to come for a taste. The wonderful smell of baking bread cannot be adequately described. Growing up in Sacramento, the Wonder Bread Bakery was just a few miles away. I loved to pass by during the time they were baking the bread. What an aroma! When I lived on Fire Island, a popular tourist area, situated off Long Island New York baking bread each Saturday morning was a ritual my family and friends always looked forward to. Our home was positioned in an area that allowed me to look out of the three kitchen bay window to the Atlantic Ocean and the front of the house to the Great South Bay. As I sat at my antique pine table kneading the dough for the homemade loaves of bread in the same bowl my Scottish grandmother used, I could view the seagulls gliding over the dunes and periodically diving into the waves for their breakfast. It reminded me of how my family would dive into the freshly baked cinnamon bread and the whole grain loaves for their breakfast as they sauntered into the kitchen with smiles on their faces and knife, butter, freshly ground peanut butter and a plate in hand. Catching a whiff of the bread as it traveled up the stairway they were always thankful that they would be the first to enjoy the warm bread when it was fresh from the oven. My friends seemed to know just the right time to stop by and bid us a good morning too. Can you blame them? Favorites in this category changed often, but the standards remained constant….breads should be soft, warm, healthy and delicious!
Freshly baked bread is a pleasure well worth the effort involved in making your own. You can use a variety of flours to create an appetizing loaf. Rye, whole wheat, unbleached all purpose, semolina or durum, which has a high gluten content and golden color, and oat are just a few. Some millers are marketing flour especially formulated to duplicate professional baker’s flour. Look for the bags that say bread flour. These are particularly superior when it comes to baking bread..
Jenny’s Saturday Morning Bread
1 ½ cups oatmeal AND boiling water
1/3 cup oil AND honey
2 Tablespoons dry yeast
1 Tablespoon sea salt
1 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk
5-5 ½ cups unbleached all purpose or bread flour
¼ cup wheatgerm & hulled sunflower seeds
Place the oatmeal in a bowl. Pour the boiling water over the oatmeal and mix. Add the honey and oil and mix again. Stir in the yogurt, salt and yeast. Add the first four cups of flour two at a time. Work the dough to combine it well. Place a cup of flour on a board. Place the dough on the flour and knead in the flour for ten minutes. Place the dough into a greased bowl. Cover with a greased piece of waxed or parchment paper and place in the refrigerator. Let rise for up to 24 hours. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and punch it down. Divide it in half. Place the dough in two greased bread pans and let it rise in a warm spot until it is double in size. Bake at 350 degrees without pre-heating the oven for 40 minutes. Yields two loaves.
Well, it’s thyme to go.