“Honey, would you mind making a couple of your coffee cakes for me to take to the office as Christmas presents?” my husband asked me. I have not made those coffee cakes in years, but they were a staple of my Christmas baking frenzy while the kids were growing up. In fact, my children didn’t know what store-bought bread tasted like unless they ate it at someone else’s house. I made all our bread from scratch: honey whole wheat, onion rye, pumperknickel, whole wheat raisin, and more. There’s nothing better than a peanut butter sandwich made with homemade peanut butter made in a VitaMix spread on a slab of homemade honey granola bread. That was the kind of lunches my children grew up with.
Bread is time-consuming to make, and I found it easier to make big batches at one time and freeze the extra loaves than making a loaf or two several times a week. Kneading five loaves worth of dough was quite a workout for my hands but very satisfying. Since I made bread on such a regular basis, I was an expert at knowing the feel of water when it was at the right temperature to grow my yeast without killing it. I knew the feel of the dough when it had enough flour incorporated into it and had sufficient amount of kneading. I knew the sound of the thump that proclaimed it had baked enough. These things were like breathing to me.
Then the children grew up and moved away, and making large batches of bread didn’t make sense anymore. I made a loaf or two a week for awhile, but homemade bread, not having any preservatives, spoils quickly and must be eaten within a few days. That’s too much bread for two people to eat. Let me rephrase that. Two people would have no trouble eating that much bread, but they would be wearing it around their waists, and that’s not an appealing sight. Believe me, I know. So I gradually stopped making bread altogether. Oh, once in a great while, on a cold, wintry day, with the winds howling and a pot of split pea soup simmering on the stove, a loaf of hearty homemade bread sounded like the perfect accompaniment, and I would pull out the ingredients and whip up a loaf. But those times were few and far between.
When my husband asked me to make two coffeecakes, I worried that I had lost my touch. The ones he requested were the ones with an apricot filling spread down the middle and the dough cut in strips along the side, then crisscrossed over the filling. My daughter-in-law had also asked me to make a loaf of challah to bring up to Boston for Christmas, so yesterday I decided to make them all at the same time. By the time I finished at the end of the day, the kitchen looked like a bomb had hit it, but I had three lovely loaves of bread sitting on my counter. If I had been worried I had lost my touch, those three loaves told me I didn’t have anything to be concerned about. I only wish someone would come up with a homemade bread diet because yesterday reminded me just how much I love making bread. Almost as much as eating it!
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Sorry – I meant to wish you and your family a happy Christmas and new year.
There’s an art to breadmaking that I’ve never mastered. The closest I’ve come to it is making bagels (which, if I remember rightly is Challah dough that’s shaped into rings then dropped into a huge pan of boiling water before putting the rings into the oven to bake), which was fun but time consuming and needs physical energy I don’t generally have. But I do admire people who make their own bread and also who enjoy making it – so, well done!
Do you not have a freezer? Freshly baked bread freezes ever so well and come out fine.
Yes, Val, bread does freeze well. That’s why I usually make several loaves at the same time. But you can’t beat the taste of bread still warm from the oven!
That’s very true!
So I’m sitting here at my computer while waiting for Christmas goodies to come out of the oven and I find myself drooling…not from the fragrances wafting from my kitchen but from staring at that delicious-looking bread you made! I want to be your neighbor!!!!! I love homemade bread and the smell of it brings back memories of coming home from school to be treated at my mother’s kitchen table with a slab of homemade bread hot from the oven. Yummmm. You definitely have not lost your touch!
I would love to share my bread with you, Empty Nest! It’s no fun making bread for just two people. Have a merry Christmas!
What a work of art. You really have the touch. I don’t paint by number but I do make bread in one of “those” breadmakers. Your loaf is gorgeous.
Even with the breadmaker, Georgette, you can use the dough cycle and then shape and bake it yourself. That way you could make a lovely braided loaf, too.
Wow, that looks yummy, Susan! I admire how you made your own bread for the kids while they were growing up. You’re the first person I know who makes her own bread. While I was reading your post, I was thinking “how does she make bread, teach kids, write and be a mom and wife all at the same time during those times?” You sound like Superwoman! And I remember that you play the violin at that! wow!:)
I never thought making bread was anything special, Yen, until I found out so few people did. But everyone loves homemade bread and it’s not that difficult, just very time-consuming.
Every year, as the new year approaches, I get back to my “get healthy” routine and I begin making whole grain bread again. My favorite is steel-cut oat bread. But the kids don’t like it. They’ll open the fridge and ask where the “real bread” is. I’m going to have to get some new recipes that are healthy, but “real”.
Kelly, that’s the only way I can justify making homemade bread on a regular basis-if it’s healthy bread. I used to grind the wheat berries in my VitaMix and make the flour I used for the bread. Now that was healthy!
I have a two loaves of Italian rustic bread rising on the counter now. You have inspired me. I’ve always wanted to grind my own flour but the cost of the VitaMix–yipe! Not sure I can justity it, as I’ve only made homemade pasta twice with my “gotta’ have it” pasta maker.
You made me laugh, Kelly, thinking of the Ron Popiel pasta maker I had to have many years ago and that finally went to Salvation Army or Goodwill or someplace. I’ve had that old VitaMix since 1975,and it’s still going strong.
I’m so impressed you make your own bread! I wish I could do that. The challah looks amazing! Wish I could sample your tasty treats.
Challah is one of my favorite breads to make, Leah. I remember going to NYC on Sunday mornings to visit my grandmother, and she always had a loaf of challah, and marble rye, and little chubs to eat for breakfast.
I can almost smell your delicious loaves of bread. Great photos.
You’re right, there’s nothing like making bread from scratch. There’s a real sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in making bread. I wish I could get mine to turn out as lovely as yours does.
I can’t imagine the strength it must take to work 5 loaves worth of dough at once. How long did that take?
E.C., my mother bought me this great bread making container from Mirro when I first got married. It has a big dough hook and you turn it by hand. The kids used to live taking turns turning it. It did most of the kneading first, and then I turned the dough out on my big work table and finished it. I think Mirro still makes it. It’s fabulous!
That’s awesome. I’m going to see if I can find a picture of one and see what it looks like. It’s great that your children helped. Making memories along with delicious homemade bread, that’s the best. 🙂
I saw it on eBay. It’s the gold tone vintage dough or bread mixer by Mirro. Of course, when my mother bought it for me in 1972,mitnwasnt vintage!
The bread looks positively perfect! And I wish wish wish I could bake bread. It is not on the list of simple cooking with less than 3 ingredients I’m sure (about all I can handle). Wish we were next door neighbors just so I could get a whiff of the bread baking. Thanks for sharing. Dor
Dor, if we were next door neighbors, I would teach you how to make bread and we would bak bread together, and then we’d sit down and enjoy a few warm slices with a cup of tea. Wouldn’t that be lovely?
Hand-kneading challah! Looks so delicious! The Central Market is my only option to get good bread…
Oh, how I miss Central Market! We liked it better than Whole Foods. Tons better! We even miss HEB!
No, you haven’t lost your touch. I haven’t baked bread in years, mostly for the same reasons you mentioned.
Yes, Patti, but now I’m rethinking this. Maybe if I made a deal with myself to work out a little harder at the YMCA and added an extra day to my workout, I could start enjoying that homemade bread again.
You could always share half a loaf with a neighbor, too, twice the blessing. 🙂 I’ve become dependent on mine to help eat baked treats, and they don’t seem to mind at all!
Thanks for reminding me, Patti. I used to do that and I should do that again.
You haven’t lost your touch–they look fabulous!
Thanks, Winsome. It makes me thing, To hell with my waistline! I’m going back to making bread.
Looks yummy Susan. I love making yeast breads too. There was a time when I made all my bread too. The kids never appreciated it and always wanted to know why they couldn’t have Soft-N-Good like the other kids.
I was fortunate because my kids loved homemade bread. In fact, they still mention it sometimes or ask for it occasionally.
I love homemade bread. One more thing to add to my list of things I wish I could make. Sigh.
I love it, too, Shary–a little too much! That’s why I don’t make it anymore.
YUM-M-M-M-O!! You do realize, I am only an hour and a half north of Boston… or, I could drive south for 45 minutes and meet you half-way for a quick greeting and bread drop!!!!! I used to make a honey wheat bread that was “to die for” – haven’t made it for probably 20 years yet I can still smell and taste it in my sensory memory. Perhaps mid-January when my annual retail stint is complete I can rekindle (or not) my bread making skills. Enjoy that bread, I’m sure it tastes as good as it looks. Enjoy your holidays… safe travels!
Carol, wouldn’t that be lovely if we could meet like that? I ordered a shirt for my son-in-law from Bean, but, alas, I didn’t get you on the phone.
You can come teach me how to bake bread anytime — I have tried so many times and it never works for me! And yeah, it looks delicious!
I would love to teach someone to make bread, TCTW. Wish you lived in my neighborhood!
Your bread looks fantastic. I made some a while back and baked one loaf and froze five. We went through it pretty quickly for two people. Homemade peanut butter sounds wonderful as well.
Yes, isn’t amazing how quickly two people can devour homemade bread? That’s why I don’t make it anymore, Country Man’s Wife!