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Baking Bread

As I am wont to do, I'm on a new wave of obsession: making bread. Unlike most of my obsessions, though, this hobby requires little money and produces something that my husband enjoys just as much as I do. So that's good. I've also been learning a lot about patience in the process. Because I'm not sure whether you're aware of this, but making bread requires time. Like, hours. It's not something you throw together for a 30-minute dinner after work. You love on it for two, three, sometimes four hours before you get to enjoy it. So, of course, I find myself eating the raw dough while I'm waiting. I think through ways to make it rise faster and how I can multi-task by pre-heating the oven while it's rising. But the hard truth is that the bread just does it's thing, and there's little you can do to speed up the process. And while that can be troublesome while you're waiting for it to rise and bake, it's all worth it when you take that first bite of fresh-from-the-oven bread. It is so good. If you haven't tasted it, you must make some now. For real. Go. Making bread has also taught me about how a little can go a long way. A little yeast makes four cups of flour rise and turn into something amazing. And a little extra salt than what's called for can make the bread taste absolutely disgusting. Truth. Watch your measurements and learn from my mistake: if the recipe calls for kosher salt, use kosher salt. It's different. On the bright side, a little honey or a little egg can make the bread taste completely different in the best of ways. After all, a little egg is what separates a regular loaf from challah, and a little honey separates wheat from honey-wheat. I've also learned a little can go a long way when it comes to how much I make. Early on I was super excited, so I doubled one of my favorite recipes. And then I had four loaves. Four. With no preservatives. So they lasted all of four days. That's when I had my own kind of manna moment: only make what is needed now. Or share it with others. Which is something I am really enjoying now. Making bread also makes me feel tied to history. Not because I'm making my grandma's recipes or anything. I mean, I got them from Pinterest. But I think back to the generations and generations of people who have used the same ingredients--a little flour, a little sugar, a little salt, a little yeast--in endless combinations to create the meals that fed generations of people. And who makes bread anymore? Especially without a bread machine? We go to the store and buy a loaf that's filled with 85 ingredients other than flour, salt, sugar, and yeast. A fake food, really. So this labor of love means so much. It means we gather longer at the table enjoying it. It means the gift of bread means something special. And we savor the bit we have instead of shoving it down our throats. Well . . . the pretzel rolls get shoved. They're just too good to eat slowly. I'm not sure what the long-term effects of my new hobby will be on my waistline, but I'm really enjoying it in the meantime. And so are my neighbors and friends.

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