Ready to bakeWalking with Fargo and Rebel yesterday took me down an unexpected rabbit trail. It suddenly occurred to me that a delightful way to spend part of my Sabbath day, doing something I enjoy but had not done for a long while would be to bake bread. Fortunately I had on hand all the ingredients for Swedish Rye Bread. The initial aroma of the fresh yeast as it dissolves is homey, comforting. Then the sweet smell of molasses overpowers the yeast and finally the pungent tang of anise and fennel. Of course all these aromas are eventually subsumed by the overpowering baking bread. The whole house begins to feel welcoming and warm.
I got a good "do" on the dough. Mother attributes that at least in part to the weather. But I was so pleased that it wasn't too sticky when I began to knead it. What a fun workout! I am always amazed when the dough rises with life, reminding me of the Eucharistic prayers where we give thanks for these "creatures" of bread and wine.
While forming the loaves I remember learning to bake bread with Mother, watching the way her hands carefully worked the dough, loving formed the loaves. The long serrated knife that sliced the warm bread, then spreading a slice with enough butter to drip off; maybe a bit of homemade crab apple jelly. I loved that she never made us wait until the bread had cooled before we enjoyed the taste.
Ready to eat!One of my fondest memories is eating her whole wheat bread (with butter of course) and a thin slice of cheddar cheese while we waited for the beef stew which was simmering in a dutch oven banked in the aspen and pine coals of a camp fire. It was a cold, misty, rainy day out south of Rawlins in the Sierra Madres. The aromas of that good food mingled with the fragrance of the wet forest sure made of for the lousy weather.
A couple of years ago my sister Joan remarked that a particular hand-formed Christmas cookie tasted nearly as good as Mother's, but that mine didn't have quite the right shape. "But then," she continued, "how could they? You don't have her hands."
Funny thing about hands....they reveal much about the person to whom they belong. Callouses and ground in dirt ...painted nails...scars attesting to adventures. One of my real joys as a priest is placing the consecrated bread--the Body of Christ--into the hands of the parishioners as they come to communion. I could tell when Jack had begun his garden, Sue had begun a new dating relationship, Bob was off his medications; who worked outside with tools and who worked inside and did crafts or worked at a computer. Big strong hands and small, frail hands. All precious, all revealing, all reaching out to receive the Bread of Life, to experience the welcome with a taste of their true home.
Well now, I guess I had better sign off to slice off a hunk of that Swedish Rye Bread and make a sandwich before I slobber anymore on this keyboard.
Swedish Rye Bread
1 package yeast
2 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/2 cup oil
4-5 cups flours (mix of white and whole wheat)
2 1/2 cups rye flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
1 Tablespoon each Anise seed and Fennel seed
Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water. When dissolved, add salt, molasses and syrup. Add all flour at once to the liquid and work in thoroughly, working in the oil at the same time. When dough ix mixed, knead it on a well-floured board until smooth. Let it rise in a warm place about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Punch the dough down and turn completely over and let it rise again to double its size. Form into loaves, placing them in greased loaf pans. Bake in 375 degree over 45-50 minutes. Makes 2 good sized loaves.