Friday, February 16, 2007

Bread 'n' Butter With My Mother

Mom and I didn't slow down much over the weekend, and it seemed most of our time was spent in the kitchen. Thanks to Mom's teachings through the years, I've acquired some skills and have not been afraid to tackle difficult recipes I've found in a magazine or strike out on my own to see if I can create something new. However, recently, I've longed to go back to the basics and learn some of the techniques I feel we've skipped over. I want to bake like my grandmothers baked and taste the same recipes that my family has enjoyed in previous generations.

Last year, I took on the task of going through Mom's recipes. Whether a recipe was saved on a receipt, business card, post-it, cut-out from a box, sheet of notebook paper or actual recipe card within Mom's recipe box, I attempted to carefully write out each one on two brand new 4 x 6 cards. One for Mom's new filing system and one for me so that I could start a true family recipe collection. It has been a blessing to make many favorites we hadn't enjoyed since I was a child, and it was especially touching to see some original recipes documented in the handwriting of my two grandmothers.

Since that time, I cannot estimate how many attempts I've made at a delicious bread recipe from one of my father's grade school classmates. In short, the bread always turned out short. Dense. Did not rise. It was scrumptuous enough, but something was clearly wrong each time. After a recent attempt by my dad in trying another recipe at home which yielded the same poor results, Uncle Roger explained that yeast is delicate and that we are probably killing the yeast with water that is too hot. (Honestly, I had no idea. I thought, 'the hotter, the better.' And, I was not with Mom during those times so she could coach me.)

So, Mom and I ran some errands and picked up a candy thermometer from the store - as this is one kitchen tool I didn't own. Then, we set out to try a whole wheat recipe posted by the Serven Clan, my new friends who are now attending Sacred Harp singings with us. I am not quite up to the task of trying this method. But, hopefully, someday.

I kept my eyes centererd on the mercury, ensuring that it remained between 100 and 110 degrees as I worked around the kitchen to add ingredients. After a little worry and much coaching from Mom, here are my fantastic results:
WHAT!?!?! No, you're correct, unfortunately. The loaf looks nothing like those pictured on the Serven Clan blog. Nope. Not even close. What happened?!?!?!

It took me a moment to figure it out - as I thought I had just ruined the bread recipe like I had done with so many before. However, the dough did double in size. I saw it rise. Hmmmm... Then it hit me. Because the recipe was so large and it was so easily divisible by 6, I made one-sixth of a batch and simply just didn't make enough dough to create a full loaf size. What a relief!!!! I think I have FINALLY got it! Now, I just need to make another attempt soon. Very soon. Mom and I enjoyed some wonderful bread and butter throughout the weekend. And, I've shared the rest with various friends, so more must be made!
Know what is better than homemade bread and fresh butter? Homemade bread with fresh butter....and delicious Halbgewachs Family honey! (OK. LOTS of honey.) Mmmmm Mmmmm Good! Thank you, Mom, for sharing your wisdom, some bread and butter, and some precious time with me. I love our weekends together!


Sandy-san said...

That looks delicious - YUM! (congratulations!) I can make banana and pumpkin bread or rolls and... that's about it! I have never actually tried to bake a fresh loaf of bread; I would like to try one day, however!

Siren said...

One of the most precious things I have is the family recipes I got from my Grandma. Even when I'm far from home, I can make Thanksgiving dinner just like she did and feel close to my family.

Something to keep in mind when altering recipe quantities... it's tempting for math-minded girls like us to simply divide (or multiply) a recipe when the numbers work out, but I've learned the results are not always what we would hope for. My mom told me it has to do with ratios of ingredients to always translating gracefully. Bread is so delicate it's one of those things this probably applies to.