I love cooking with my daughter Gabby. She’s thirteen and has been shadowing me in the kitchen since she was a baby. Her keen interest has grown and developed since she could stand on a chair to reach the counter. We enjoy cooking and experimenting in the kitchen together and have great fun tasting and critiquing our work. Late this afternoon, we decided to make bread and to try a recipe which we had not done before.
There is something satisfying in the task of bread making. The miracle of the yeast and the way it reacts with flour, water and butter. I have often thought about this strange alchemy and the first person who thought of putting these ingredients together. Who ever it was, it was sheer genius. I love the anticipation of waiting for the dough to double as it rises. There is a unique smell of the yeast as it activates. In the utmost silence, living organisms are magically working, while the dough sits seemingly at rest in the covered bowl.
An hour later, the dough was perfectly risen. Gabby and I were looking forward to forming the familiar knot-shaped roll. However, when we dipped the dough sections into warm water mixed with baking soda; that’s when it all changed. This important step made our beautiful dough became so soft. It was so pliable that it was almost too difficult to handle. The seemingly easy task was taking on disasterous proportions. Once on a trip to New York, we had once watched a woman at the Aunty Annie’s counter roll her pretzels with lightening precision. She made it seem so easy. Although ours were a different recipe, they resembled sad, twisted, crinkled bow- like wannabes! Alas, we plodded on fearing the outcome and lamenting on how our lovely dough was lost. We had come this far in the process; we would bake them up anyway.
I slipped the two large baking trays into the hot oven and out on the timer. Once again, the mysterious working of the yeast reacting to the hot oven began. The pretzel dough rose again! Like magic they plumped up and took on a brown tan. The wonderful aromas wafting from the oven permeating the house were amazing. We could hardly contain our excitement.
When the timer buzzed and I removed the trays from the oven… a Christmas miracle!! Our rolls were beautiful. Although not identical in shape, each one was unique in its own form of perfection.
My daughter and I sat down to taste the fruit of our labor. They were warm pillows of bready deliciousness. We buttered them with a unctuous dab of French salted butter “La Motte” and also sprinkled a few with cinnamon sugar! What could possibly be better than fresh bread baked at home? It was “Pure Joy”.
I am so happy that my Gabby is learning to appreciate the simple pleasures of life. These moments are priceless.