Love is fundamental

It’s become something of a joke with me that if I’m feeling particularly overwhelmed by life or work or some combination thereof, you’ll find me in the kitchen covered in flour. I have always loved to cook; it’s only in the last few years that I’ve really embraced baking. And only in the last year that I’ve learned about the Miracle of Bread.

Owing to a few particularly traumatic pie crust experiences in my younger days, somehow I had assumed that anything more complicated than cookies or muffins would be beyond my abilities. But then, one day, well… there was beer cheese bread. And oh my lord, it was SO GOOD.

Thus began the slippery slide.

I mean, beer cheese bread is hardly for everyday. I still make that to go with soup. Or when we’re having company. Or when we have beer. Okay, I make it a LOT, but it wasn’t long before I was branching out.

I tried some other recipes. And then I started making bread fairly regularly. If a meal included fresh bread, well, it was the Great Family Unifier. Praise was heaped upon me by children AND spouse, and as we all know, I’ve never met a carb I didn’t like—so it was truly a win/win kind of thing.

About a month ago, various circumstances converged and I started getting really stressed out. I mean, even for me. The overwhelm was mounting, and I was beating it back bit by bit, but I was losing. I started looking for ways to soothe myself (other than watching terrible television, which is often my drug of choice). I started up the garden, which we all know is one of my favorite ways to commune with forces much calmer than my natural disposition. And I started baking more.

While I’ve always loved the relative Zen of working with dough—the methodical kneading, the forced periods of waiting between rises—as I tried different recipes I began to appreciate the magic of the process. It doesn’t matter how many loaves I make; the way even the most inauspicious lump puffs up into fluffy goodness amazes me each and every time.

I also started getting a lot better/faster at it, and last week I was powerless to stop the words that I found issuing from my mouth: “Hey, you know what? I should just stop buying sandwich bread.”

And that’s a great idea, you know, because the two bucks a loaf I’m saving (between the cost of my supplies vs. the organic, fructose-syrup free loaves I shell out for at the store) is TOTALLY WORTH the hour of time I end up spending mixing, kneading, etc. Right? Ummmmm….

Yeah. It’s not saving me any money in the long run; if you compare it to what I charge my clients, it’s a ludicrous WASTE of money, actually.

But.

I know what’s in our food, because I put it there.

It tastes so much better than the stuff from the store.

It forces me to walk away from the computer.

It gives me time to just THINK instead of always being in “work” mode.

It makes me feel powerful. No, not like Wonder Woman powerful… but “I can make food from not-food” powerful. I turn powders and liquids into actual food. It’s like ALCHEMY. It’s something our ancestors did with little thought, and something that too many of us think doesn’t apply to modern life. It does. It should, anyway.

When I pack lunches for my family, now, it feels like a private love note to each of them. They may not know or care, but I do.


(Hearty oatmeal peanut butter and jelly bread—or in our case, sunbutter and jam bread—recipe from Flour Girl, shown both swirled as directed and made without the PB&J.)

Besides, EVERYONE knows that bread you bake yourself doesn’t have any calories. I’m sure I read that somewhere.

Happy Love Thursday, everyone. Get back to basics, this week, even in just one tiny corner of your life. I bet you’ll be glad you did.

42 Responses to “Love is fundamental”

  1. 1
    Sarah April 23, 2009 at 11:37 am #

    Oh that looks soooo delicious!

  2. 2
    AmeliaB April 23, 2009 at 11:47 am #

    I have followed your blog for a while, and I remembered that Monkey outgrew the peanut allergy. Yay!! I have a nut-free house due to my daughter’s allergies. I see that you are using sunbutter in that awesome looking bread, and I am wondering if you are still avoiding peanuts or if you guys just prefer the sunbutter now. I haven’t been able get my kid to eat sunbutter, so I was just wondering.

  3. 3
    Kelly April 23, 2009 at 11:58 am #

    Gotta love sunbutter!

    We haven’t quite gone for the make bread ourselves with our hands – but we have fallen in love with having a bread maker. Two minutes of putting ingredients in, and four hours later wonderful hot fresh bread. We tend to stick to very wheat and even the 21 month old loves it!

  4. 4
    Marissa April 23, 2009 at 11:58 am #

    I am inspired by this! I with redouble my resolve to make at least one truly homemade meal or bake something once a week. A modest goal, I know, but hey I’m a first year attorney, have an 8yr old son and am 5 months pregnant — modest is as good as it gets!

  5. 5
    Tracy April 23, 2009 at 12:06 pm #

    Oh my, I love fresh made bread. That is why I had to get rid of the bread maker machine. I was gaining weight while it was still rising. I’ve never thought to make it myself. Of course, I can’t make biscuits (unless you call whomp biscuits, baking)so I doubt I could bake bread. Maybe I’ll try it and see what happens. Maybe.

  6. 6
    Ann from Minnesota April 23, 2009 at 12:24 pm #

    Beer cheese bread – thanks to you one of our family favorites… I was making it every weekend, and dinner was nothing more than bread and butter, or perhaps grilled cheese sandwiches. I swoon thinking about it now! I haven’t made any for awhile, but I hear it will be cold and rainy here in Minnesota on Sunday. I wonder what I should do? :) Pass the carbs!

  7. 7
    Susan April 23, 2009 at 12:27 pm #

    When you get tired of kneading get the Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day. You can make all kinds of bread. You can mix a batch of dough and keep it in the fridge for a week ot two, grabbing just enough to bake a loaf for dinner. LOVE IT! And Zoe is great too! http://www.artisanbreadinfive.com/

  8. 8
    The Mother April 23, 2009 at 12:31 pm #

    Homemade bread is absolutely, positively NOT a waste of money. It’s a powerful statement of love to your family.

    Not to mention all that tension you can work out kneading a pound of dough.

    And the smell? It’s enough to get high on. Someone will probably try to ban it as a drug.

  9. 9
    Lucinda April 23, 2009 at 1:23 pm #

    I’m not so much with the bread-making (Celiac tends to get in the way) but I do love cooking for my family for exactly the reasons you explain. The time it takes to prepare, the making something out of nothing, knowing what is in the food I feed my family, and the love that goes into the preparation. It takes time to make it all from scratch but for me it is one of the best ways I know to show my love. Thanks for articulating it so well!

  10. 10
    exile on mom street April 23, 2009 at 1:40 pm #

    Baking = Therapy for me, and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than a psychologist.

    Guess what I’m doing today?

  11. 11
    Heather April 23, 2009 at 1:47 pm #

    I’m curious, Mir, do you use the processed cheese as the recipe says or use something else? Does it work with regular cheese?

  12. 12
    meghann April 23, 2009 at 1:57 pm #

    Not to add fuel to the carb fire, but a friend of mine gave me the simplest muffin recipe ever. And they come out great. I make them all the time now. And with a name like “muffin”, how could they be bad for you? It’s such a happy little word.

    http://3minionsintow.blogspot.com/2009/04/cooking-with-meghann-101-homemade.html

  13. 13
    Anna Marie April 23, 2009 at 2:02 pm #

    YUM! I’m totally impressed, Mir. I can cook just about anything, but baking – that has always seemed a little magical to me.

  14. 14
    My Kids Mom April 23, 2009 at 2:04 pm #

    I promised the kids I’d make pizza tonight- they’ve come to love taking dough from the bread machine and squishing out their own individual pizzas. I’ve been experimenting with making our own bread. If I make two when I’m in the mood to bake, I can freeze one either as dough or half-baked, and the effort seems worthwhile the next time I want it.

  15. 15
    Alison April 23, 2009 at 2:29 pm #

    Mmmm, that looks delicious! I’ve never met a carb I didn’t like, either.

  16. 16
    Andrea April 23, 2009 at 2:36 pm #

    I have always been afraid of making my own bread. Maybe this summer I will try. I am in a cooking club and they laugh at me because we have been together for 9 years and I still have yet to choose to make the bread.

  17. 17
    Kemi April 23, 2009 at 2:39 pm #

    My husband sells GM cars. We’ve been back to basics for a long, looooooong time. :D

    It is nice, though, most days. I feel very connected to my grandparents, who lived simply and made do with what they had.

    I’m totally going to make that bread. My kids will thank you.

  18. 18
    Gaylin April 23, 2009 at 2:53 pm #

    I used to bake all the time, I even had a recipe for yeast raised chocolate bread, with chocolate butter. I made muffins, cookies, bread, everything I could from scratch.
    THEN I became allergic to grains, yes, all of them, including rice . . .
    Now I have two cookies recipes I like, flourless nut butter cookies and chocolate truffle cookies. Yes, I have flourless recipe cookbooks but almond flour is very pricey in these economic times. Also have a great cornbread recipe for when I really must have ‘bread’.
    Enjoy making bread MIR, I miss it.
    p.s. I am even allergic to the dust from grain flour so baking for other people doesn’t happen either.

  19. 19
    Jess April 23, 2009 at 3:11 pm #

    Ooh. I have been thinking about making PB&J bread for a while, and my daughter just rediscovered her love of peanut butter. I should give that a try. :)

  20. 20
    Corey April 23, 2009 at 3:30 pm #

    um, yeah, mine did not look like that. damn you and your perfect bread. :-p

  21. 21
    MomCat April 23, 2009 at 3:30 pm #

    Still loafing around? (Looks delicious!)

  22. 22
    Lady of Perpetual Chaos April 23, 2009 at 4:00 pm #

    Oh, I love making bread!

  23. 23
    Karen April 23, 2009 at 4:06 pm #

    Ya….sometimes my bread is nice and pretty like yours and other times it could be used as a weapon. Not that it matters to my family. They will eat it either way. I just think bricks should be used for building something other than bodies. :)

  24. 24
    Megan April 23, 2009 at 4:14 pm #

    That tears it. Definitely baking honey rolls tomorrow night… mmmm fresh honey rolls, and then left-overs for breakfast. ‘Course have to go on a 2 hour hike to make up for it, but that’s good too!

  25. 25
    Bethany April 23, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    I made our sandwich bread using the breadmaker until we had kids–no keeping up with the needs of 6 people using a breadmaker! But the biggest obstacle for me was slicing it nicely, and thin enough for sandwiches. I’d be interested to know how you do this, if there are any tips.

  26. 26
    Lori N April 23, 2009 at 5:17 pm #

    I didn’t realize you were living in peanut-free land too! Thanks for linking this recipe – I’m going to try it tomorrow.

    (I’m also a stress baker – my favorite time is the night before we leave on vacation. Cuz, you know, I’ve just gotta bring fresh baked goodness for my kids on the plane. And I’m in sane.)

  27. 27
    Lori N April 23, 2009 at 5:17 pm #

    That should have been INSANE or i.n.s.a.n.e!

    I have never resembled sane.

  28. 28
    Tam King April 23, 2009 at 5:53 pm #

    Im not much of a baker – i see something shiny and forget all about the food thats in the oven, often only remembering it when the fire department knock on my front door and ask me if i’m aware that the house looks like its on fire again. For the THIRD. TIME. THIS. MONTH….

    *ahem – tanget* Sooo im insanely jealous that your baking looks so incrediby and wonderful and yummy and, well im just Jealous that your so much more domesticated than me! There, i said it.

  29. 29
    Jan in Norman, OK April 23, 2009 at 5:59 pm #

    Little hint: If you are ever baking bread and find yourself about 1/2 cup short on flour, do not, I repeat, DO NOT substitute a snack-pack-sized box of bran flakes…unless, of course, you are in need of paving material.

    Just sayin’.

  30. 30
    sarah April 23, 2009 at 7:05 pm #

    I’ve been doing the same- and it’s totally worth it. I miss “real” bread on the rare occasions that we buy bread from the store.

  31. 31
    julie April 23, 2009 at 7:29 pm #

    A friend made a new years resolution at the beginning of 2008 to bake all the bread for her family (2 adults, 2 kids, loads and loads of PB&J’s). I thought she was nuts and then I started making this bread http://www.thesimpledollar.com/2007/11/04/homemade-bread-cheap-delicious-healthy-and-easier-than-you-think/ and I can make 2 loaves in about 30 minutes of prep time (which the kids always assist me with) and then about an hour later I spend about 10 more minutes on it, and then an hour later I move it into the oven (5 minutes) and 30 minutes later there’s lovely lovely bread. We went almost 4 months without buying bread and recently bought 2-3 loaves but will be back to our “teamwork bread” this week and beyond.

    Also: you can mix it, knead it 5-10 mins and toss it in the (sprayed) crockpot on high with a chopstick propped in the lid to vent it. 2-5 hours and you get a nice round rustic loaf with no further effort required. (Can you tell I don’t have a bread maker?)

  32. 32
    jessica April 23, 2009 at 7:58 pm #

    You know what? We’ve started doing the same thing! The honey wheat is a HUGE favorite in our house, but I still haven’t found a good, easy rye bread recipe. I’m practically tingling with anticipation, because I’m sure after two weeks, the sourdough starter I made is just about ready for really good sourdough bread. Now if I could just get home from work in time to make it. *sigh*

  33. 33
    Ruth April 23, 2009 at 10:45 pm #

    Inspirational, for sure. I would love to have some of that no-cal bread! Thanks.

  34. 34
    Paula April 24, 2009 at 5:08 am #

    Even bread mixtures made in an automatic baking machine taste a lot better than bought bread. And yeah! baking is my way of anti-depressive therapy, so productive, so lovely, and you can taste the love that has been put in there, too!

  35. 35
    Brigitte April 24, 2009 at 5:44 am #

    My slicing skills are too challenged to bake sandwich bread. And I’m not about to install a big, fancy bread slicer in my little kitchen!

    But I think we are “back to basics” in many areas. Heck, we even use the trade/barter system to get a lot of our bread, milk and eggs. Cool!

  36. 36
    Mom24@4evermom April 24, 2009 at 8:51 am #

    It looks wonderful. I’m curious though, why the sunbutter? I thought Monkey outgrew his allergy. Is someone else allergic? Do you just prefer it? Did he not outgrow it?

    It looks fantastic.

  37. 37
    Heather April 24, 2009 at 9:05 am #

    Thanks, I already had a ton of things to do this weekend, and now I have to make bread!

  38. 38
    Amy-Go April 24, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    Mouth watering…want CARBS…damn you! ;)

  39. 39
    radioactivetori April 24, 2009 at 10:12 am #

    I LOVED that pb&j bread. I also made it plain and some of my kids liked it better that way. Guess what they put on it? Peanut butter and jelly. Which really means the part of the plain bread they liked better was being able to make their own mess with it!

  40. 40
    Zuska April 24, 2009 at 11:13 am #

    That looks yummy! I’ve been baking our sandwich bread every week for about 3-4 months now, and the whole family loves this – we’ve never looked back! If I could master (or heck, even just try) English Muffins, we might never have to venture down the bread aisle again!!

    Nothin’ says lovin’ (Thursday) like somethin’ from the oven…

  41. 41
    Fiona April 26, 2009 at 12:05 am #

    Since my love language is food… it completly understand. I’ve not bought sandwhich bread for about a year now. I really like knowing what’s in the bread AND the forced slowing down required to make it.

  42. 42
    Giyen April 28, 2009 at 11:57 pm #

    “Besides, EVERYONE knows that bread you bake yourself doesn’t have any calories. I’m sure I read that somewhere.”

    I can tell everyone that I read it here. :)

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