When I was a young girl, I had a play kitchen in a corner of our basement. I would create an entire “house” down there. It was dark, dank and made of concrete, but it was mine. I decorated it just the way I wanted with doilies and dolls and dandelions picked from the grass.
Speaking of grass, when my mother wasn’t looking, I tried to cook in her kitchen. I stood on a chair and put grass in the skillet, I turned the stove on, and I stirred. When the flames started leaping, my older sister went running for help. But I didn’t panic because I thought this was what cooking was all about: the fire.
When I was a tween, I went through a Martha Stewart phase. Mostly in terms of decorating my house for the holidays (I put an electric candle in every window during Christmas) and designing my bedroom (I painted a bright pink accent wall, bought a bedspread covered in clouds, and installed a wire closet organizer at the age of 10), but I would also experiment with her recipes. I watched her create all sorts of “good things” on the TV, and I subscribed to the magazine to further immerse my hungry brain into the world of homemaking.
But one thing I never attempted was making bread. We had a bread machine back then, and so there was no need, or desire.
That all changed this year.
I got a Kitchenaid Stand Mixer for Christmas and the book, “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.” I read the first few chapters, I dusted off my baking stone, I pulled my shiny white mixer out of the corner (not a necessary tool, but certainly helpful) and I baked my first loaf of bread.
Here is my one pound loaf, fresh out of the oven, cooling on a wire rack in the morning sun:
It was easy. I had no idea making bread could be easy. But when a baker and a scientist came together to create the basic recipe in “Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes a Day“, which you can find on their website, they made an important discovery: you can refrigerate this dough (not just any dough!) for up to two weeks. Whenever you want fresh bread, you tear off a chunk, shape it, let it rest, and bake it. And that’s that.
You can have fresh bread every morning. You can use organic flour. You can add flaxseeds or walnuts or rosemary or raisins or whole wheat flour. You can shape the loaf into a baguette or a ciabatta or a pizza crust.
Fresh bread is romantic and comforting, a diverse yet basic food. Bread making is a lost art, but readily adaptable to modern life, thanks to this genius of a book. When I pull a loaf out of the oven, I am transported back to an earlier time. A time when women grounded the flour and men milked the cows and children played out doors rather than the Wii. An era we’ve progressed beyond, but can still learn from: humble pleasures, such as starting the day with freshly baked bread, will never be replaced.
The book offers hundreds of pages of advice and recipes, but you don’t really need it since they generously share the basic recipe on their website. You can make your own bread. You may be shocked at the simplicity of the recipe. Your house will smell like heaven. Your family will be impressed, and then spoiled. And you may never buy bread from the store again.