My mom was crowned The Bread Queen by her friends years ago. Everyone knew she made the best bread around. In the 60s and 70s not many people made bread at home, and there weren’t artisan bread shops on every corner as there are now—at least in the S.F. Bay Area. Homemade bread was a real treat. Even though we had it at our house all the time, I was always delighted by the aroma of baking bread, and couldn’t wait for the first slice of warm bread slathered in butter.
My mother makes bread because my grandmother made bread, and I presume that my great grandmother made bread as well. It is a family tradition in its truest form. There is no recipe. Nothing is written down. A good bread baker uses all of her/his senses to make a perfect loaf. The fragrance of the yeast as it proofs, the appearance of the dough as you mix the dry and wet ingredients together, the feel of the dough as you knead it, the response of the dough when it has risen, the sound of the bread when it is fully baked. Some people are natural, intuitive bread bakers, but anyone can learn how. It takes practice, and patience, and most importantly, assurance that you—not the dough—is in control. If the dough starts sticking to your hands, scrape it off, flour your hands, start over again using a light but authoritative touch.
The perfect bread rising window! Oil the bowl. Put the dough into the oiled bowl and turn it upside down so that the dough is oiled all over. Be sure to cover the bowl with a clean dish towel to prevent the dough from forming a crust.
Oil the pans. Place the logs into the pans and press down to evenly distribute the dough. Cover with a dish towel and let rise until doubled in size.
Ready for the oven.
When the loaves are golden brown, remove them from the pan. Are they singing??
See how happy freshly baked bread can make you!
Although there is a recipe included below, it is just a suggestion. This is the recipe my mom wrote down when she made the loaves pictured, but she changes it frequently. More often than not, she uses water and olive oil rather than the milk and butter she used when I was a kid. She also almost always substitutes whole wheat flour for some of the white flour. I hope that when you make your own loaves you will find a dough that makes you happy. Use honey rather than sugar, add poppy seeds, hemp seeds or whatever you have in your cupboard. If the first tries leave you with bread you aren’t pleased with, make breadcrumbs and stick them in the freezer until you need them—they will be much better than the tasteless store-bought kind. The world of bread is not a monarchy. There are plenty of crowns to go around.