the rise of bread in my life

It’s true, my children’s favorite food is bread.  This morning I wished an army of kitchen gnomes were hard at work on some of my favorite tweaked recipes.  And as I slid my feet into my knitted slippers I realized the joy would be lost in the process if what I ate was both created and delivered by gnomes.

A bit less than a decade ago, our great friend Eric gave us a bread machine and we repaid the favor with a bonsai tree.  (Is the tree still alive, or did Boots devour it with his huge exotic teeth?)  I poured over recipes for bead machines and fevorishly purchased ready made boxes for such contraptions.  “Just add water,” they’d call out to me in the aisles and, since I had no grad school debt or children to provide for, I’d gladly fork over the five dollars per organic box. Maybe it was the long Montana winters or my childhood luck of having a mother who would cut the crust off my homemade bread slices, but there were countless loaves I’d bake and with a huge searated knife, I would slice off all six crusty sides and devour the steamy squishy inside, but only after I slathered it with butter.  Just the right treat after a day on the slopes.  
Five zip codes later, that bread machine sat on a counter and smokey-geared its way through its thousandth loaf, until I could finally only use it for kneading assistance.  My first kitchen helper was already six months and would sleep in the sling as I rolled the dough out onto our baking stone.  She’d recently been diagnosed with a fruit allergy that forbid any store bought bread with citric acid or lemon as a preservative, apple sauce, apple cider vinegar or raisin paste as an additive.  Flour really became a staple on our grocery list at this point.  
I was so excited when she turned nine months and I tried pure wheat with her; of course my own recipe of twice baked melba with wheat germ and flax.  Around this time our roof started leaking when it rained.  Maybe it was that exact first moment of drizzle into the hundred and thirteen year old kitchen that my bread machine caught on fire.  Living in that old prairie house had me pretty used to disaster.  I wasn’t bothered by the flames, just the plain fact that something else wasn’t working right while Luke was working all the time.  
Looking into that moment like shaking some drippy victorian snow globe, I smile.  It was the turning point to all hands on bread baking.  It is so much easier than all those expensive co-op loaves would have you believe, and you can do it anywhere.  
Last week I read the log of my family’s 1980s sailing trip to and through the Bahamas.  It seemed every other page my mom was talking of scoring 50 pounds of flour and baking another fabulous loaf in the tiny cabin oven beside fresh caught lobster and octopus in rain water.  She even added, “who needs butter when you’re barefoot in the Bahamas holding a coconut eating fresh bread in a deserted anchorage?”  What she didn’t add, however, were the bread recipes from Staniel Cay or Eluthra or anywhere else.  I now want to document my girls’ childhood with recipes as we taste our way in and out of favorites.  
Writing this post makes me want to write an article for some foodie magazine on the destruction of bread machines and the introduction to new traditions in your kitchen.  For now, I’ll start by making our current favorite, with zucchinis and goat cheese from the local Farmer’s Market.
In my eyes, Betty will always be seen as the girl who made me make bread.  This first picture shows Betty at the same age Lucy is now, sitting on the steps of the home with the leaky roof. We were letting bread rise, enjoying our sunflowers and Olympic Penninsula views.

Today Lucy helped with her first loaf.  Well, I guess you can say she helped in a sling held close to my heart as a young babe, but now she gets her hands yeast-sticky and floured.

After a festive Fourth of July Parade and Town picnic, we rushed home for Lucy to nap and catch our loaf after its second rise. Betty is bread painting our giant dough braclet before fireworks.

Betty loves to experiment with shapes, and here are two “painted pickles” with a few slates carved in with a knife before baking.

zucchini goat cheese bread
I first have to give perks to the naked chef for this recipe.  cheers, even though you don’t seem to be aging well in London where I once longed of cooking with you…
the stash
6-8 cups of organic unbleached white flour
1 cup tepid to semi-hot filtered water
1 ounce yeast
2 tbl unbleached sugar
2 tbl sea salt
6 large zucchini, washed and grated using a cheese grader
7 ounces fresh goat cheese
stage one
pile flour on a clean surface, making a well in the center
pour half of your water in the center, then add yeast
wait until the yeast gets frothy (if it doesn’t, you might need to start again with fresh active yeast)
add sugar, salt then stir with a fork
add zucchini and thyme
mix using your hands to scruntch
you won’t need more water; lots of water will squeeze out from the zucchini
stage two
slowly and confidently, bring in flour from sides but don’t break the sides or water will go everywhere!
continue until it looks like old oatmeal
pat and push in a circular motion until zucchini is evenly mixed
you may find that at high altitudes you need more water
stage three
slap dough until desired consistency, 4-5 minutes or until elbows hurt and your dough looks silky and elasticky
kids love to help at this phase
stage four
flour the top of the dough, place in a metal bowl and cover with plastic wrap
for best results on the rise, place bowl on top of a heating pad set at medium
let rise until double
stage five
knock the air out of it for thirty seconds by puching it; what fun!  kids love cooking violence
roll out into a giant rectangle with a rolling pin, floured
smoosh goat cheese over flat surface, sprinkly with thyme and basil (or dill)
roll up like a giant fajita
place on a baking stone
this is the most important rise: the second rise gives the bread air that gets cooked in the bread, making it light and airy
**It you like hard crust, whip up on egg with a teaspoon of water and brush over surface.  Betty calls this Bread Painting
let rise
bake, 350-375
place in preheated oven, careful not to slam the door or the bread will fall
you can tell it is cooked by tapping on the bread – does it sound hallow?  does it look like the color of pretzels?
enjoy, especially with cream cheese


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