SMELLS LIKE HOME
By Terri White
In the summer of 2016, I returned from a 17 day stem-to-stern tour of Europe with a case of bronchitis. My doctor prescribed the usual round of steroids and anti-biotics. However, due to my chronic bouts with upper respiratory infections, he recommended that I see a pulmonologist.
I did, and Dr. A left no stone unturned until he was satisfied that no hidden respiratory disease lurked in secret places inside my body. Nevertheless, I still never felt up to par. Then my primary doctor found the early stages of diabetes 2 in my blood work. Likely the cause of me feeling a little blah. It surprised me, though, because I am kind of a health nut.
What to do? A friend had resolved her health issues with a diet change and loved her keto eating regimen. Maybe that would work for me. Once I researched it, I dove in. It only works if followed strictly. No problem! Why bother if I’m not all in?
In the first two months, I deprogrammed my body from carbohydrate and sugar cravings. Since I’m not a fast food junky or soda drinker, the process was fairly easy on me. After a couple more months, I felt positively radiant and energized. This at age 68. Six months into the regimen, I no longer tested positive for diabetes 2. Yahoo! Smooth sailing now.
I continued the diet until June 2021 when I felt the need for a change. Gradually, I introduced healthy carb-laden fruits and vegetables. Still no fast food, sodas, or chips, though. That’s a lifetime no-no. If I eat bread, I choose sprouted grain that’s higher in protein.
Ah, bread. While raising my kids, I baked homemade bread every week. I even ground the wheat berries, making my own flour. Bread baking in the oven – nothing like that aroma, redolent of comfort and safety.
Since I’ve modified my eating regimen, I have not tackled bread making. Frankly, it never raised a blip on the radar of my busy life. When not working, I’m usually making my magic mac ‘n cheese for my grandsons. Ha!
Seriously, though, the thought of homemade bread baking in my kitchen never took hold until a friend gave me a lovely bread dish for my birthday last December. This week, that thought inched its way from the back of my mind to the front. It refused to budge until I did something about it.
Why not? So I invited my 15-year old granddaughter over for a bread baking spree. But we were not going to bake just one loaf! Why bother unless there’s enough to share? So I pulled out my six loaf recipe the night before and dug through our chest freezer for a bag of whole wheat flour. I set it on the kitchen counter with the other ingredients - because room temperature is a must. Then I sent Steve to the store for yeast. Of course, he called to make sure he bought the right item. Perfect.
With the temperature dropping to the 20s that night, I awoke to a chilly house. Obviously, all my ingredients were the wrong kind of room temperature. I cranked up the thermostat and took steps to warm all the ingredients. I won’t bore you with the details. Pretend it was magic: I snapped my fingers and poof!
When Josie arrived, we rolled up our sleeves. I pulled my Bosch dough kneader out of retirement, and Josie dumped in warm water, honey, and yeast. Sit until foamy. Then add oil, salt and flour. Mix until everything is wet. Sit for five minutes. Finally, she gradually added the remaining flour while the dough kneaded. We let it knead for about ten more minutes until the dough cleared the sides of the bowl.
After dusting the counter with flour, we dumped out the lump of goo. A bit too sticky, so we sprinkled on more flour and kneaded it by hand a tad more. Just right. We oiled our hands, divided the dough into six parts, and plopped four of them into loaf pans. On a cold day, bread dough needs a bit of encouragement to rise, so I opened the heated oven and set the pans on the door. Since the Bosch does such an amazing kneading job, the dough only needs to rise once.
Meanwhile, Josie and I turned the remaining dough into Hungarian coffee cake. Roll into little balls, soak each in the bowl of melted butter-maple syrup, and then douse them with a mixture of brown sugar, cinnamon, and pecan meal. After one layer, sprinkle with raisins. Repeat for second layer.
By the time we finished that, we slid the four risen loaves into the oven and looked forward to the fresh aroma of baking bread wafting throughout the house.
After not baking bread for twelve years, I worried how they would turn out. But thirty-five minutes later, our picture-perfect loaves cooled on the racks. We wasted no time sampling a slice. It tasted as perfect as it looked. Slathered in butter, of course.
Now to bake the coffee cake that had already risen. Set the timer. Clean up the kitchen. Ding! Time to remove those two goodies. But wait! I don’t remember smelling that cinnamon-infused bread aroma. I opened the oven and pressed the bread lightly with my finger. It was still dough! What?! I had inadvertently turned off the oven when I removed the other four loaves. Well, these were definitely going to be fluffy!
Fast forward thirty-five minutes, and the spicy aroma of coffee cake filled the kitchen. Success even if they had risen a tad too much. And, oh boy, what a treat! Soft, flavorful yumminess.
Josie finished her day by expertly cleaning my house. I paid her handsomely, she devoured her Mimi’s grown-up, grilled cheese sandwich on homemade bread, grabbed her very own loaf and coffee cake, and headed home – contented.
Later, we picked up two of our grandsons from school. While the 11-year-old refused to taste our labors of love, the six-year-old ventured a bite. “Yuck!” he blurted and spit it out. No accounting for his lousy taste buds. Geeze, I raised his mother on this bread.
And speaking of her. I sent Joy home with Hungarian coffee cake. Next morning she texted me, “You put raisins in it. You never did that before.” Of course, I did. Those slippery memories.
Jokingly, I remarked, “If I hadn’t added raisins, it would have been Romanian coffee cake instead.” Ha! Easy fix, though. She tossed out those chewy raisins, and savored the homemade goodness.
Risking another raisin rebuff, I texted Josie’s dad, “Have you sampled the goodies? Do they bring back memories?”
“Yes,” responded Joseph, “they sure do.” Followed by a heart.
Am I a good Mom or what?