Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Comfort in the scent

It's winter here in Kansas City. I've discovered this means weather at least as variable as in New England. Mark Twain famously said, "If you don't like the weather in New England, wait a minute." Considering the man was from Missouri, where we've had one day with a high of 12F followed by another with a high of 45F, he knew what he was talking about.

When the weather turns cold and dark I bake. (I know, wheat is considered evil by many these days. I go back and forth about it. Right now, my need for mental and emotional comfort is winning, so I bake. If that bothers you, move on to a different post.)

I love the feel of dough in my hands, the heat from the oven on my cheeks and most especially the smell. Oh, the magical chemistry of flour, water and a few other things! The kitchen light becomes as welcoming as a sunny day when my home smells like baking. Soon the house feels cozy and warm, a fortress against the grey outside.

I've most recently made banana bread, adapted from James Beard's recipe, and wheat bread, adapted from Alton Brown's Very Basic Bread recipe.

The banana bread is an old staple for me, tried and true. I love the taste of honey along with the banana and I used toasted almonds which added a bit of chew. It's quite dense, moist and lush. I always feel a bit decadent when I make this, it seems like such a luxury.

It's the wheat bread that I've really fallen in love with (the picture at the head of this blog). I've always wanted to make a rustic loaf that wasn't too overwhelmingly dense (good for banana bread, less so for toasting bread) and never managed it. This is the first bread I've made that starts with a sponge (basically a sour dough starter) and it is great. The recipe takes time, but I urge you to try it.

If the winter has you down find the things that bring you back into yourself, the simpler comforts. The scent of bread. The time required to make something good. Sharing it with those you live.

(c) 2013 Laura Packer

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