I signed on this morning with the intention of forcing all the muddled stresses crushing my soul into a single, coherent post. The universe clearly understood that there’s really no way I can accomplish that and threw me a bone with a daily prompt from WP.
What do I prefer to have handmade?
I prefer my bread handmade. Really, truly handmade. I don’t have a mixer so we’re talking hand mixed, hand kneaded bread. I love it, though I suck at slicing.
I used to own a bread machine, but it rapidly became a dust collector. It was nice to set it and forget it, but cleaning it was a pain and the family could not abide the after taste. Time passed. One of us developed a severe condition that imposed unforgiving dietary restrictions and the bread machine continued to collect dust, eventually finding its way to a donation box. I was able to trust one brand of commercially available bread and relied on it for a little too long. Fresh baked bread from the store had contamination issues enough times that I’ll never buy it again. Meanwhile the commercially produced bread for people avoiding the things we were avoiding was expensive, dense and rejected. $4-5 for a loaf of safe bread that went to feed the birds visiting my compost heap. We relied on that single brand of bread until after we found it contaminated. That loaf went to the heap and was replaced with a new one.
Sick again. Compost. Wait over a week. Buy new loaf. Sick again. Flip over the package. There was no contamination issue – the ingredients changed. Our safe bread was no longer safe. We checked the bread aisles at three large grocers only to discover that we could not find a single safe loaf.
There were times when I wished I hadn’t given away the bread machine. They were fleeting. Throwing away homemade bread was no more appealing than throwing away store bought. I experimented on and off with making bread. We usually ended up with something similar to the specialty brands. Not terrible, but not what we wanted. My family wants bread that feels and tastes like the bread they have spent their lives eating. Because we have given up so much “normal” food, some homemade versions have to look, smell, taste and feel like their commercial counterparts. Sometimes, a runner up just won’t do. Time passed and we basically gave up bread.
Enter the holy shit! moment.
Similar failures with purchased hamburger buns had me on the lookout for bun recipes. I found one and went through the motions without high expectations. I did notice that the dough was very light and wondered if I could use it for bread. After baking, I fried some bacon and hamburgers. The buns were normal. Very normal. They were excellently fucking normal. And perfectly safe.
I watched on in excitement as my family at burgers on buns. No forks, no knives. Buns. Whole burgers lifted up to the mouth to be bitten into.
A few days later, I made the recipe again. This time, half the dough went into a bread pan. It was exactly what I was looking for! Moreover, it is a hit with the family.
I make it at least once per week, though I am striving to average twice. There are only six ingredients (flour, liquid, sugar, oil, salt, yeast) and they are mixed by hand with a spoon. The dough is kneaded by hand. It’s a process and I choose a day when I have a couple of hours to be home where I can babysit it. It forces me to be still and focused even when my stressors are out of control. Kneading dough also happens to be a great way to work out the bitter unfairness of life from time to time.
So, I prefer my bread handmade. For obvious reasons, everyone’s health and well being, ingredient control, freshness, etc. But I also prefer it for a very simple reason…making bread from scratch, a fairly abnormal thing in the modern US, has returned some normalcy to my family. White bread, toast. Sandwiches. Peanut butter and jelly. My kids can eat peanut butter and jelly! Just like everyone else. (With empathy to those who cannot.)