Today marks the cutoff date for our Local Bread contest. Susan, Beth, and I would like to thank everyone who's participated in the random drawing and particularly in the story contest. We'll announce the two winners within the next. In the meantime, here are the last of the story entries.
First, Carla Shafer and Zorra both posted their stories on their blogs. Carla offers an amazing story of a four-year-old boy making cinnamon rolls from scratch with no help.
In the meantime, Zorra offers a bit of advice on baking bread along with her sourdough recipe.
Amanda was prompted to start baking bread by a loaf her mother made when she was a young girl. But it took her 16 years to get around to it:
I have a vague memory of my mother sending me to school for a pioneer day with a small round loaf of bread. Years later I came across a recipe for Country Loaf, a large round loaf of bread. It reminded me of how good that bread tasted 16 or so years before, so I set out, armed only with Betty Crocker’s instructions, to make homemade bread.
I grabbed my all-purpose flour and the little bag of yeast that had been languishing on my pantry shelf and mixed, kneaded, prodded, poked, waited, worried and baked the afternoon away. I honestly didn't expect it to work. Several hours later I pulled a golden brown loaf of bread from my oven, just in time for dinner. I had done it! I had made bread with my own hands. My husband walked in the door, sniffed, then said "I didn't know you knew how to make bread." I told him, "Neither did I."
Four years later, I'm still at it. I have an ever-expanding library of bread books and am saving to buy myself a KitchenAid mixer. For me, bread making has gone from a way to pass the time to something interesting to do to something I am passionate about, all because of a little loaf of bread made by my mother 16 years ago.
Libby Maxey tells of her adventures with sourdough, replete with explosions:
I come from the west coast, where sourdough bread is a given. When my grandma used to come over for our regular Sunday lunch, she would always bring a packaged sourdough round to go with the soup that she had made. Although my mom ground wheat to bake bread for us, my heart belonged to that pre-baked, heat-and-serve sourdough. When I moved to upstate New York, where sourdough bread was neither plentiful nor particularly sour, I decided to bake my own. I was engaged, waiting for my fiancé to return from abroad, living alone in our new apartment and trying to learn how to cook. I had baked bread before, but not memorably. Little did I know how memorable my sourdough saga would turn out to be.
First, there was the starter that dried up, then the starter that molded, and then the starter that just sat there and did nothing. I didn’t realize that the last would do nothing for the bread, so I tried to bake with it. (At least it wasn’t moldy.) After a day of long, messy and indefinite rises, 10 P.M. found me shoveling a rather shapeless mass of grainy dough onto a cookie sheet, and hustling it into a hot oven. I left the oven door open, and reached for my tea kettle to add the final artisanal touch: steam.
The recipe had directed me to place an empty baking pan on the bottom rack to pre-heat so that I could fill it with boiling water as the bread went in. I had chosen a blue glass lasagna pan; I poured quickly, eager to get the oven closed before the steam escaped. Suddenly, the pan exploded with a tremendous bang. Fragments tumbled into the bottom of the oven and out onto the kitchen floor. Nevertheless, I was bound and determined to bake that bread, even if I could barely get the oven door to grind closed with all the shards in the hinge. I’m sure I tried to enjoy some of the hard, unleavened lump that was the fruit of my labors, but I have no memory of tasting it. Undeterred by the failure of that adventure, I’m proud to say that I continued my quest to bake a true sourdough loaf, and eventually became enough of an expert to advise others — and to console them in their times of trial.
And finally, from Teri Nestel we have another "first time" story:
My first experience baking bread was completely unexpected and unwanted. I was newly married and foolishly asked my sister-in-law what I could bring to Thanksgiving. To my terror Lori said, "You can bring the bread."Again, thanks to everyone who participated in our contest.
Because my mother-in-law is a fabulous bread baker and I assumed my three sisters-in-law were too, I thought nothing less than homemade bread would do.
I got out my Betty Crocker cookbook and carefully read the pages of instructions and recipes. I shopped for ingredients, turned out two loaves of Honey-Whole Wheat Bread and carefully packaged them for the trip to Lori's home.
The food was delicious and my bread was not a disaster. It was a little flat and dense — not enough kneading, not enough rising? Geri — when she heard it was my first effort — said she was impressed. I will love her forever. For all its flaws in appearance, it tasted good! And I was hooked.
That was over ten years ago. I have come a long way from those early days when baking a tube of refrigerator sweet rolls was worth writing home for. My favorite recipes include a buttery roll made with cornmeal and milk, fluffy rolls covered with poppy seeds, a honey mustard loaf, a braided loaf flavored with cardamom and crusted with coarse sugar, and Naan, middle-eastern flatbread that the neighborhood kids ask to take home. I still make my original Honey-Whole Wheat bread and it is still pretty good!