Sunday, April 16, 2006

Bakeries

When I was a kid, my mom baked bread once in a while. I’d get home from school to find a loaf of fresh baked bread sitting on the kitchen table, still warm from the oven. I’d get a tall, cold glass of milk, slice a chunk of bread from the loaf, and cover it with butter – real butter, not the fake stuff. Heaven!

1 and 1/3 cups water
4 cups bread flour
4 teaspoons sugar
1 and ½ teaspoons salt
2 and ½ tablespoons olive oil
2 and ½ teaspoons yeast

These are the ingredients in my bread-machine right now. It’s a simple recipe for Italian bread, a staple here on Sundays. This is supposed to make a 2 pound loaf. My kids enjoy it as much as I do, so sometimes there’s no bread left over at the end of the meal!

Bread is a comfort food. I’ve always loved homemade baked goods, unless I’ve tried to bake them myself. I made cookies once that were more suitable for skeet practice. Until we got the bread machine, my efforts at bread making were met with extremely variable results, though nothing ever exploded. Honest.

Bread, like pasta, potatoes, and rice, provides complex carbohydrates. That’s long-burning fuel for a cyclist. Given a choice between store-bought ‘air bread’ and homemade, I’ll take the good stuff, thank you. We all have to eat. We might as well eat what we enjoy most.

Since I’m a klutz at baking, I know every bakery in town. I know their best products and their over-priced ones. For a few years, Lisa worked in the grocery down the hill. She worked night shift, putting dough into the proofing oven, and had bagels coming out at 5AM, just when I was leaving for work. Sometimes I’d get them still too hot to touch, wrap them carefully in a bag, and ride off to work. On days when I drove, those bagels often didn’t make it to work. I have a problem with impulse control.

When I lived in Pittsburgh, I rode past the Nabisco plant and two bakeries on the way to work. When Nabisco made Lorna Doones – one of my favorites – it was very difficult to get by there! The whole street smelled like a freshly opened bag of cookies.

One of the bakeries would allow customers in before the place was officially open for business. If you had the exact change, they’d give you whatever was coming out of the ovens. These guys were smart. The ovens were located at the back of the building, but they’d built a duct the length of the shop in order to put the exhaust onto the street out front. The aroma caught me by the nose and led me inside. I stopped there often, wrapped hot baked goods in my newspaper, and then stuffed the bundle into the pocket of my anorak. If I was quick and the lights were in my favor, I could make it to work and have hot doughnuts and coffee. Life was good!

These days I try to avoid doughnuts. I really don’t need the fat. But the temptation is always there, nagging at me as I ride past the bakery on Main Street. I’m more likely to have a bagel now. Regardless, it’s all good stuff.

3 Comments:

Blogger George said...

I'd post a bread recipe, but all mine start with a #100 pound sack of flour:-)

6:46 AM  
Blogger Ed W said...

I think my grandmother could have used a 100 pound sack of flour, George. She baked once a week and made bread for her family, friends, and church. Her kitchen table would be completely covered with loaves, and it was a big table because it could seat 8 people.

I remember that Monday was wash day, but I can't remember which one was baking day. If I tried to steal some bread, she'd get angry enough to yell at me in Polish!

Come to think of it, I should post that piece on immigration that I did last week. It's not on-topic, but it's clearly timely.

9:13 AM  
Blogger Coelecanth said...

MY SO says that "Because I like cake." when she's asked why she chooses to not own a car.

If it's sweet and baked I'm all over it. If I ate the way I do and didn't ride I'd be as wide as I am tall.

1:23 PM  

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