I have started baking more of my own bread. It has been something I have wanted to work into my normal weekly routine. So, since this has been happening the past two weeks, I have not bothered to buy any new bread. Then, this morning, as I was retrieving the homemade bread (this one is a whole wheat bread, recipe below) I realized I had somehow forgot to remove the leftover store-bought bread in a bag in the bottom of my large tin bread bin.
I took it and and there was a bit of mold, so I simply took a knife, cut off that bit and tossed it into the yards for the birds and proceeded to cut up the rest into little chunks. I put it back into its original bag and popped it into the fridge to use. I figured, I will make a meat loaf tonight and can use that as filler.
This was all a simple little act that took not much decision and a few seconds of my morning. But, in the middle of it I was suddenly struck by what I was doing. I imagined myself a year ago, 1955, first learning and just getting my toes wet into the ‘ways of the Homemaker’. I think it very nice that such things are more natural or second nature. Really, it took very little more time that just tossing it away and it also made me think ,”How shall I use it? Stuffing? Filler? Croutons?” and that helped me to cement my dinner menu plans.
The old me would have tossed it without thinking. I sometimes shudder when I think of the amount of waste I used to create. It isn't’ even an issue of ‘being green’, but really just common sense. Even if bread is cheap and readily available at any store, why should I toss out any good bread and have to spend more money? But, we modern people, as a whole (I know most of you, my readers, are very smart Homemakers that could probably teach me a thing or two and believe me, I would be glad for the lesson)but as a whole we are a wasteful lot.
Now, I don’t want to go off on some tangent about how we are such bad modern people and we should do this or that. I just really thought it an interesting observation I had while about my ‘busy’ work this morning in my kitchen. I am often finding myself going along as if I have always lived this way and then little memories of ‘before 1955’ slip in and I think, “Wow, I have come a long way”. I am still amazed at how completely we can change our view and actions. Persistence, determination, work seem to result in real change. That makes me feel good and more in control of my life.
Yesterday the 16th, here in 1956, the movie Carousel opened.
This Rodgers and Hammerstein play had great success on the stage and this was it’s film debut staring Gordon MaCrae and Shirley Jones.
Today, The Second Symphony of Chilean composer Juan Orrego-Salas receives its world premiere in Minneapolis, Minn. I could not find the second symphony, but this is nice and you can hear both the discordant sound of a ‘modern’ composition, but mingled with a sweet promise of the piano that seems to me often true of the 1950’s. The shattered way in which it came about from the war, the continued rationing, housing shortage and yet the promise and hope of a new tomorrow.
As mentioned at the beginning of this post, I have been on a sort of ‘Bread Quest’, making and trying every recipe for bread I can get my eager little fingers on. As with most things I have discovered from 1955, once you just try a thing, just set aside the modern notion of, “Oh, when I have time” or “Well, when I get around to it I will…” and fill in the blank. That was me very often. Now, I often find myself saying I want to try something and then the modern me might chime in and say, “well, after this or that” and then I turn and say to that part of me, “Now, come one. No time like the present, just get in there and do it!” I often have to be rather stern with myself, but I do learn in the end and anyway, my reward is a warm piece of bread!
Well, this ‘Bread Quest lead me to the recipe. It was a whole wheat bread and was really dense and wonderful, but it did not rise properly. I was not familiar with this form of bread recipe and was confused by its directions to make the ‘sponge’ and wait until it was bubbly.
Well, the sponge was the yeast and some white flour and warm water set in a warm place “ ‘till bubbly and light” which is certainly open for much interpretation. The recipe was rather vague about directions and it’s method called the yeast flour mixture a ‘sponge’ and I think I did not let that get ‘bubbly’ enough. It did get a little bubbly, and the this was a ‘no-knead’ bread, so I already felt as if I was cheating somehow. It did rise, but I don’t think I let it rise enough. However, the resluting little dense rectangular loaf was lovely!
My hubby even told me he shared half a slice with a co-worker who was eyeing his lunch. This happens a lot to hubby and he often gets a few people anxiously asking, “Oh, what did you get today?” recalling days of childhood sat at long tables littered with little brown bags and trading of Twinkies and ho-ho’s with the kid whose mother ‘baked’. The coworker took a bite, looked at hubby and said, “This is the best bread I have ever eaten”.
This made me smile, because I certainly knew it was NOT the best bread I have ever baked and I really have only been baking bread a few months total. I would sporadically try it in 1955, but was often left telling myself my 1955 counterpart would have happily filled her cart at the new Grocery stores with sliced bread. Even the saying, ‘better than sliced bread’ told of the greatness of the enriched pre-made loaves of the day. But, I digress…
The bread, though not properly risen, was good.
Here it is. It is a sad little rectangle loaf, but really good. It made me think of images I had seen of the ‘national loaf’ they had used in the UK during the war which was made from potato flour and was suppose to be in taste, similar to cardboard. Mine, however, was really good.
Here is the recipe I used:
EASY WHOLE WHEAT BREAD
1 c. warm water
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tbsp. sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 env. yeast
1/4 c. hot water
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. shortening, melted
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
Mix hot water with brown sugar and shortening and cool to lukewarm.
Mix first 5 ingredients and beat until smooth. Set in warm place, free of drafts, until light and bubbly.
Add the lukewarm mixture to the sponge and mix well. Add the whole wheat flour and beat smooth, but do NOT knead. Place in one greased loaf pan and let rise until double in bulk. Bake at 350 degrees about 45-50 minutes.
As this is a sponge type of dough, be careful not to move or shake the pan while rising.
So, I began, as I often do, to do some research. What was this ‘sponge’ of which the recipe spoke? So, I did some research and found an answer in another bread I have been wanting to try: Sourdough Bread.
Now, the making of bread for me has a three fold directive. First, I enjoy it. The making of food, I have found, is not unlike the creative process in a studio or art class. It is both tactile and cerebral. Secondly, the taste is far superior to anything I can buy and the quality is good and healthy as I know what is going into the food. And, finally, cost effective. I often find homemade can mean less money. Yet, with bread, the cost of each loaf would always be so highly affected by the cost of yeast, it does not seem to come cheap. So, with my research into the infamous bread “sponge”, my piqued interest in the realm of sourdough, I found the answers to both those questions.
First, the SPONGE: this is for all intents and purposes a bowl of warm fermented batter. Setting a bowl of this ‘sponge’ in a warm place to let it ferment or ‘proof’ is what was needed for my bread recipe. It was not clear about the time and I see now I did not let it ‘proof’ long enough. It can take only an hour or two or up to 6-8!
Now, my sponge was made by using store bought yeast added to flour and warm water. As I researched the sponge I found I had stumbled onto sourdough bread making. Wonderful, one path hooks to another trail I had hoped to follow ( I find this happening a lot in homemaking skills).
Now, I love sourdough bread and really had no idea what it was made from. I assumed, sour milk? Well, I was wrong. The wonderful thing is you make sourdough bread with a ‘sponge’ and the ‘sponge’ is a living thing you create and keep and feed. The best part is, you don’t need to start with store bought yeast.
Basically, from what I understand, it is a cup of warm water and flour and then over a few days your ‘feeding’ it gives you the starter that you then can keep and use and add to forever! This was an exciting find. This would and could help in overall cost and also be rather fun. Like a little helper, quietly growing in my icebox.
So, I have not made this sourdough starter to make my ‘sponge’ as of yet, but it is the next bread quest. I shall share my results and pictures of it and if it works, I may have a new little friend around the house, my little ‘starter’ happily residing in an old crock in my ice box that I can occasionally feed.
It really does begin to bring you closer to our connection with food. We modern people really are separated from the source and chemistry of what we eat. It is probably good we are, because when we begin to look at what is in what we actually eat, all the store bought pre-made, it can be a bit disconcerting. I am not sure, in this case, if ‘ignorance is bliss’. But, just as keeping your own chickens, gathering those eggs and using them makes a connection and a realization between animal and food, so to does bread making. I begin to see how with a small arsenal of flour, butter, eggs, milk etc you have the key ingredients to so many things. At one point in our distant past, this was our arsenal of food. We needed food, we didn’t just want to eat the grass and raw kill, so we, (We women I might add!) began to mix and meld and create. Food was born. Dishes made and created. The fresh smells of bread and food cooking, the very basic nurturing scent that makes all of us, close our eyes, inhale and think, “Ahhhhh”.
Forget aromatherapy candles and odd bamboo sticks sat in glass bottles filled with odd oils to soothe your frazzled nerves. Take two minutes to throw together an easy bread recipe (This one is good) and when it begins to rise and then bake, grab that magazine, a cuppa and sit back and let the relaxation begin.