Friday, February 18, 2011

Bread is Personal

I have been asked to publish the Ziploc Bread recipe I use on Ka'sala.  It got me thinking about bread and the following was the result.  The recipe is at the end.  Hope you enjoy it!

Bread is personal. Some people like it airy and light, others prefer dense and dark. Some like nuts and seeds, some pure white, others like rye, or 7 grains, or oatmeal. Some like their loaves round, others square. And bread complies – there has to be thousands of variations when you get right down to it. No matter where you find yourself, a fresh baked loaf, of any design - is a real treat.

I believe our love for bread is tied up in our bread memories. My earliest one is connected to my grandmother, Sophia Beatrice. She was the mother of 9 children, 7 of her own (though one died in infancy) and 2 of her sister’s (who had died in one the great Influenza epidemics in the early 1900’s). The father of her children was an Anglican parish priest, and throughout her childbearing years she raised this great brood in one manse after another, through the Great Depression, the Second World War and, no doubt, through other challenging times. She was a generous woman and any excess wealth that may have come her way, she quickly redistributed. One of her many talents was making bread.

In her later years, my grandmother would divide her time between her children’s families. My father was her youngest son and I couldn’t wait for our turn for a visit. Although I’m sure my mother could not have always been totally pleased with it, my grandmother liked to take over the kitchen. The night before a marathon bread-baking session, she would cook up a big pot of potatoes for dinner and keep the water. In the morning, she would mix the potato water with all the other ingredients, as I pestered her with questions and watched her knead the lumpy clumps of flour into a stretchy, sinuous, yeasty smelling mass with her strong hands.

I wanted to watch the dough rise – to see the magic under the tea towel – but after a thorough scolding after peeking, I had to satisfy myself with imagining it and eventually be rewarded with the excitement of seeing it billow up under its cover. The punching down was always fun and I remember begging Grandma to let me do it. The big whoosh as all the air muttered out and the sides collapsed was always a thrill – especially when I learned that if it was left it would rise again. However, the biggest delight was next.

Grandma would divide the dough into four parts. Three, she would shape into loaves, put into loaf pans and return them to their warm place to rise again. The fourth part was special – for this piece was to metamorphosize into cinnamon buns. She would roll the dough into a rectangular shape, then smear it with thick gobs of butter, followed by the rich caramel of brown sugar, then walnuts or raisins, or sometimes both. She would then jelly-roll it and slice it, pushing the little crescents together in a rectangular pan. The dough was so excited about all this process it couldn’t help but rise under her fingers. By the time they were in the pan they were already crowding each other and clamouring to rise.

For a little girl, the process of baking bread was a tantalizing and frustrating process. It took so long! The anticipation was so great! The aromas were divine! However, it was the time we shared together as we waited for the final product that is indelibly sketched in my memory. As I write this I can literally see my grandmother and hear her voice. I’m salivating as I recall the torture of waiting and the terrible decision I had to make when the baking was done. Would I have a piece of fresh-out-of-the-oven bread covered in jam, or one of the tasty buns? I can remember thinking up elaborate ways I could convince my grandmother (and my mother) that really, I ought to have one of each. At any rate, the immense pleasure of biting in to one of those freshly baked goodies remains with me today. Unfortunately, no matter how hard I have tried – following my grandmother’s recipe to the very letter, the very dot, has not ever even come close to her finely finished products. Yes, I can make many different kinds of bread, but I guess I must lack that special measure of love she put into every loaf she made. Thank you, Grandma, I’ve never forgotten.

Grandma and Grandpa

Ziploc Bag Bread for Sailors *

3 cups of flour (can be a combo of white, whole wheat, rye, etc. – the darker the flour, the heavier the loaf - I  use 2 cups of white and 1cup of whole wheat)

1/2 cup oatmeal (or a combo of the things you like to stick in bread – seeds, chopped nuts, raisins, etc. – again, the heavier the choice, the denser the bread)

1  teaspoon of salt

Mix these ingredients in a large Ziploc bag.


1 teaspoon of regular yeast

1 1/4 cup of warm water

Seal the bag and squish the ingredients around until nothing sticks to the bag. Open an inch in the corner to allow gas to escape and put it in a warm place for at least three hours. {It won’t turn into a balloon like kneaded bread, but it will rise.)

Pull it out of the bag and shape it into the container you will bake it in. Grease that container. You can use a soufflé dish, a loaf pan, a Corelle casserole dish for whatever shape you desire. Bake it accordingly: @ 400 degrees for approximately 30 minutes. It depends on your oven and how it retains heat, so start watching after 25 minutes. Apparently you can cook it at 500 degrees in less time, but I have never tried it.

*I got this recipe from Laura Bell on SV Chirpy. She told me she was gifted this recipe from someone else – I can’t remember who – but she had adapted it to her liking and I have taken it and adapted it to mine. You, undoubtedly, will do the same. Happy eating!

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