The weather is turning and my hands and feet are starting to ache. I had gone tree planting in the rain with my family a couple weeks ago and the cold settled into my joints.
When I got home I started kneading some sourdough bread I had percolating on the counter. The kneading motion is the perfect stretch to typical office work hand positions or the gripping and digging of tree planting.
The flexing, turning and stretching of my hands and the dough has this wonderful rhythmic quality. I feel the muscles across my back, chest and arms work as the dough gets to that perfectly plastic, stretchy state.
Bread making always takes me back to sitting with my mom as she made bread. I had tiny metal pans as I’d try to emulate her moves. It always smelled so good but was also a lot of work so homemade bread was a special treat.
If we were really lucky Mom would save some dough to pan fry into a puffy pastry we called doughboys. In Ontario there are similar things called elephant ears or beaver tails.
Bread making also reminds me of my aunts on my mom’s side, all great bread makers. I think about my cousins who are making bread back on the East Coast. They all make bread in a similar style and giant rolls perfect for butter and jam.
I especially love how if you make a lot of bread you get great big arms. My sister and I joke about it all the time. We love visiting our Aunt Jean who would treat us to her rolls, bread and doughboys at Palfrey Lake Lodge. Her strong arms moving large batches of dough as though they weighed nothing at all.
Bread has gotten a bad rap these days as a harbinger of ill health and too caloricly dense. Dollar for dollar it is a very effective way to get nourishment and many cultures have a yeast or sourdough based bread. This ted talk about bread and addressing global hunger is pretty amazing.
And here’s another on bread making and trying to make whole grain bread that tastes yummy.
I’ve been playing around with making sourdough bread. The results are not perfect but they are always tasty. I get a little zing of pride when I see the dusty loaves. The texture is satisfying and perfect with soups and cheeses.
The house smells great, it feels physically good, it’s a cheap way to get great food.
If you have the privilege of time, one of those days when you are home off and on, maybe writing or exercising, making bread adds punctuation to the day.
If you’ve never tried making bread it can be a great way to connect with a friend, revel in how your body and time can transform flour and water into this delectable thing.