Bread baking battle

breadI used to make bread for my family a few years ago. Then life got busy and I resorted to store bought.  So here I am trying to make bread for my family again. Why? For the hell health of it.  Here goes another babystep towards feeding my family REAL food.

My attempts at making healthy, moist, delicious bread have not met with success, actually they have all been just ‘edible’.  Did I lose my touch? I’m even trying my hand at making sourdough starter in attempts to create the healthiest for my family.  

I love reading stories from the pioneer days, hear how things were done back then.  Some of their struggles were a lot like mine, but some struggles I can only imagine.  If you are like me and have yet to turn out a perfect loaf of bread, I hope you find the following an encouragement:

Taken from “Come ‘n Get It ~ Favorite Ranch Recipes” by Beulah Barss.

Bread making used to require the preparation of the flour yeast sponge the night before baking. If kept warm all night, the sponge would be nicely risen by morning, no small task in houses with wood-burning stoves and fires that died out.  Ranch wife Monica Hopkins wrote: “These evenings I wrap my bread in a blanket and Billie’s fur coat, put it in one of the wicker chairs and cover all up with a travelling rug and you should see it next morning, right up to the very top of the bread pan.” Monica Hopkins, Manuscript “Log Cabin and We Two” 1909-10.

Mrs. Short arrived in High River in 1884.  There was neither yeast nor a stove available.  She baked sourdough bread every day in an iron pot with a heavy lid, a Dutch oven. “A fire was built of dry willow wood, as it died down a hole was scraped in the ashes and a covered pot containing the large round loaf was placed therein, and the hole covered with coal and ashes.  In an hour or so the bread was cook. From the diary of Lulu Short

The First Batch of Bread

We had just moved to our place near Swift Current and mother had never tried making bread before.  There she was in the kitchen, banging the cupboard doors, slamming the oven of the new Kitchen Queen, tears of frustration in her eyes, angry words on her lips.  Dad heard the commotion and came in.  He took one look at those hard, brown blocks spread out on the kitchen table and then went over and put his arms around her.

Next morning he woke us children early and motioned us to follow him to the creek bank where he had only yesterday cut steps in the moist clay.  He stopped at the first step, fished one of the dry loaves out of his bag, set firmly on the clay step, marked its size, lifted it, cut a neat hole, then fitted the loaf perfectly into the hole to form a step.  Then he embedded the second loaf in the second step and the third loaf in the third step and right down the line until the six loaves graced the six steps as if they had been made for that purpose.

Then we fetched mother to share in the admiration of our new concrete like steps leading to the creek.  Well, we all laughed so hard we hardly had strength to make it back to the house.

But mother was not beaten.  She tackled bread baking again and again and soon was able to turn out six beautiful, golden crusted loaves.  Dad while munching a sample with obvious satisfaction said it was just as well since there were no more steps to make.

This post is part of Fight Back Fridays, hosted by FoodRenegade.com

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6 responses

  1. Glad I’m not the only one with ‘bricks’ as sourdough loaves. That last story was a riot! I can so relate.

    Good luck with your journey to find nourishing bread, and keep everyone updated on your finds!

  2. Ha! This sounds very familiar. I think it’s because we didn’t have anyone teaching us other than books. It took me a LONG time to get the knack of making my own REAL bread and having it come out perfect. (I’d always had good success back when I used white flour, but when I started trying to do wheat and sourdough the learning curve was STEEP.)

    The secret to my eventual success was FINALLY understanding what “smooth & elastic” meant. It’s a very narrow window of texture, and you just have to add more oil, water, and flour until you get it. When I hit upon smooth & elastic dough, it inevitably rises to perfection. Anyhow, it’s not something you can learn from a book. You have to hold the smooth dough in your hands and feel how different it is.

    Thanks for joining in the Fight Back Friday fun today.

    Cheers,
    ~KristenM
    (AKA FoodRenegade)

    • Wardeh, can you imagine trying to make bread in a Dutch oven all the time?! Getting the fire going, preparing the dough. It must have taken hours. I’ve cooked in a Dutch oven before, but not bread. It was a fun novelty but I can imagine doing it that way everyday would wear me out. I’m sure Mrs. Short was just glad to have bread for her family’s table no matter how much work it was to get it there. It would be interesting to ask her.

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