Consider some of life’s frothy pleasures:
a properly poured lager,
a hand-made milkshake,
and the yeast for homemade bread.
“You’ll know the yeast is good when you have froth, like a beer,” said my husband, our resident expert on bread-making. “Bubbling isn’t good enough.”
When my husband fell ill for a while, it became my responsibility to either learn to make bread or purchase it.
I like beer, I can recognize froth. I know how to work with dough (or so I thought). How hard could this be?
The first batch of bread I made on my own lacked the smooth consistency that it should have. It crumbled terribly. It was edible, but not as good as Dennis’s. In my defense, my previous dough experience involved crafting delicate pie crust, which demands as little handling as possible to remain flaky.
“How do you do it?” I insisted that he show me, not just tell me. I am a visual (and increasingly) kinesthetic learner.
The secret was obvious: he spent a great deal of time kneading the dough.
While our snazzy six-quart electric KitchenAid mixer initially mixes the ingredients, it is essential to put some muscle into the task.
He rolled, pushed, pounded, tossed (which made Gavin giggle), and otherwise showed that dough who was boss.
I thought as I watched him: I have muscles. I can do that.
And I did, in spite of the protests of my burning arms. The results that time around were much better, the bread much smoother and easier to slice.
Now, when I make bread, I slow down.
I put more love into my bread. I put more time into it, kneading and rolling it over and over. Often, I have a little sidekick standing on the step-stool, pushing his own bit of dough around in way too much flour.
The time and effort are worth it. Even now, in the heat of summer, it is satisfying to pull out of the oven two warm loaves of hearty, healthy bread for my family.