Sunday, March 16, 2008

Bread: the mark of a mother

To me making bread is a hallmark of motherhood-- all truly great moms make bread. Nothing brings comfort to a home like the smell and the taste of warm freshly baked bread. And not just the throw in the bread machine kind but real by- hand- from- scratch, bread. I grind my wheat, I grind my oats, I take off my wedding rings and knead it by hand. I use the same kind of mixer the women in my family have used to make bread for 4 generations. I like making bread because it is a tradition that transcends time and cultures- all around the world for thousands of years women have made bread for their families. In times of sorrow and celebration, in times of sickness and health. It is what sustains people in the most meager times. In my book, Bread is personal, bread is sincere, bread is intimate. It is reserved for special people. People who care for me, people who serve me, people I love, people I want to comfort. Quite honestly I will make cookies for anyone, but not bread.

All the great bread making women I know have "their bread recipe"- not one from a cookbook. finding your recipe is a sort of motherhood rite of passage. I started with one recipe. It evolved to the point that it no longer resembles the original recipe and I call it my own.

I became a true bread maker during one of the most challenging seasons of my life- the 3 yr span in between my first two boys when I had 7 miscarriages. I think I made bread to comfort, to care, for myself during a very lonely time. I often made my bread for my doctors, who saw more times than either of us can possible count. All of us struggling to figure out why at three months, after weeks of perfect normalcy, the ultrasound screen would yield only deafening silence and stillness. The whole sequence played over and over again like a video loop. Probably in some deep subconscious way, by giving this personal feeble offering, I was trying to bargain with God to show my sincerity, my deservingness as a mother. That somehow that in these acts of giving I might receive that one thing I was desperate for. Just as the recipe changed and no longer resembles its original, those years profoundly changed me, I lost the blissful ignorance, innocence of motherhood and childbearing and came through the other side as a stronger woman with the deepest love a mother forged in fire and tears.

So my bread comes with history, a very personal history, which I probably why I share it guardedly. As much as I hate the crumbs on the counter, few things make me feel more like a great mother than to hear my children cheer when I tell them I am making "my" bread. So if you haven't become a bread maker yet, I will offer you my recipe as a stepping stone to create your very own signature homemade bread.

Leslie's Homemade Bread
3 c. hot water
1Tbsp. salt
1/4 c. oil
1 c. brown sugar
8-9 cups flour (4 c. wheat (red and white wheat combo), 2 better for bread, 2 c. oats)
2 Tbsp. yeast
1 tbsp. vital wheat gluten
1 egg

stir water, salt, oil and br sugar together. add 4 cups wheat flour, yeast and egg. beat 4-5 minutes . add 2 cups oat flour (take oats pulverize in blender to make oat flour). mix well- add remaining bfb flour and gluten. knead 10 minutes. place in grease bowl and cover with towel - let rise in warm spot until dbl. punch down divide into three loaves, roll out and form loaves. Let rise again until dbl in pans. bake 35 mins at 325.


Lee said...

((HUGS)) That is beautiful Les. It is amazing the things that help us to deal and to go forward. You amaze me.

LL said...

this is such a great post...I wish I had read it earlier!! THANK YOU for my bread, I was SO happy to have received it but NOW, I feel honored. You're so thoughtful, I appreciate you and your kindness!

Cathy said...

I love what you said. I find that as I take the time to make bread I'm able to ponder the issues in my life. The kneading is so therapeutic.

smart mama said...

cathy i thought you were boycotting this post because of my slander of your bread machine bread

Sonja said...

Really great post. I'm thinking I need to make bread now. :)

Cathy said...

Was that comment aimed at me? It's going to take more than that to keep me from coming back.

I think of my bread machine like my sewing machine. I can do it, and somedays I enjoy it, but right now it creates large amounts of stress in my life. So for now, I will use my bread machine and buy clothes from the store.

smart mama said...

cmon- i want you to start grinding the wheat by hand with a stone and start spinning wool into thread to weave cloth for your clothes-and you call yourself a homemaker- i don't know... LOL

Cathy said...

maybe I can get my five little helpers to grind the wheat. Oh wait, isn't there a story. . . The Little Red Hen. My daughter read that once and said, "She needs a husband."

SweetPea said...

I LOVE this Lei. I make rolls, cinnamon rolls, and other things, but I've been too nervous to venture into breadmaking. I think you've given me the courage and inspiration to start! Btw, will you explain all the different types of flour you listed?

smart mama said...

k- you can totally do this- the flours i use
1. wheat flour- you can use store bought wheat flour or fresh ground- i grind mine- and i use a combo of hard red wheat and hard white wheat
2. better for bread- bread flour you buy at the grocery store
3. oat flour- just take oats old fashioned or quick and put them in your blender until they turn into flour-- if you have more questions- you can always drop me a line

The Orton's said...

Hello Les, I saw your comment on my blog and thought I would stop over and say hello. How do you know Laura? I'm just wondering if you happen to know my brother as well - Aaron? I appreciate your kind words and look forward to reading more of your blogs. I loved this one about bread. How true it is! Thank you. Becky

smart mama said...

becky- nice to meet you- I know LL because she I serve in primary together- and we live in the neighboring town. i don't think i know your brother though

swimmingmom said...

I'm going to be a "truly great mom" soon, really, I'm trying ;-) My goal for the year (last year and continuing into this one) was to learn how to make bread. I've worked on it and I'm not really a pro yet and admittedly, sometimes I take the bread maker route just because it's easy. Thanks for the new recipe though. I'll have to try it. And, I just bought wheat from the cannery. Just haft get a grinder one day.
Umm, see, I remembered my psswrd finally;-)

smart mama said...

yay for your password!!