Panem et Circenses

Panem et Circenses

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Tomato Bread

Ingredients:  Sun Dried Tomatos, Tomato Paste, Water, Bread Flour, Gluten, Salt,  and Yeast.

Tonight we be dancin!   My fifth graders are not going to know what hit them tomorrow when I teach them how to dance the Viriginia Reel as part of our unit on the Civil War.   I have some period songs for them to try, but I also found some very exciting Irish music for them to pound the gym floor with.  Turn on this music for a few minutes and I promise you will be dancing a jig around your kitchen.

SHAM ROCK VIRGINIA REEL BLEND
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjbgRLsJ1M0

I was supposed to make this dough into baguettes, but I got creative and decided to braid it instead before I baked it in my oven.  It has a beautiful redish orange color once it is finished kneading and an amazing texture once it is done baking.  Try dipping it in a mixture of olive oil and basalmic vinegar.

Last night I headed back to the gym after a year sabatical.  Tonight I can hardly move.  Every muscle in my body hurts, but it feels so good.

I am now finished with my first month of baking bread. Thank you for your loyalty to drop in to see what's cooking.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Cranberry-Golden Raisin Bread with Cardamom

Ingredients:  Cranberries, Golden Raisins, Cardamom, Water, Butter, Light Brown Sugar, Bread Flour, Dry Milk, Gluten, Salt, and Yeast.

I have added a new flavor to my life. . . Cardamom. This little spice is amazing indeed, the aroma is fantastic, and the taste is divine.  Cardamom refers to several plants in the ginger family native to India and Bhutan. Cardamom is recognized by a small seed pod, triangular in cross-section and spindle-shaped, with a thin papery outer shell and small black seeds. Today, the majority of cardamom is still grown in southern India. It is the third most expensive spice in the world, outstripped in terms of its market value by only saffron and vanilla. Scandinavian raisin breads are always baked with Cardamom.

 


  I am enjoying a quiet Saturday afternoon at home baking bread, watching movies about the Civil War, working on lesson plans, and eating my Cranberry-Golden Raisin with Cardamom Bread.  What a perfect day.



Pane Francese

Ingredients: Italian Biga, Water, Bread Flour, Gluten, and Salt

I took some personal liberties making this loaf, I was only supposed to leave the biga in the machine for 8 hours or so, and by the time I got around to finally making this bread it had sat closer to 24 hours.  I don't know what it was supposed to look or taste like, but all I know is that this bread is my new favorite country bread.  This is a bread I will put a star next to so I can remember to make it again in the future.

I guess you could say that I have had a bad case of writer's block the past few days.  There are plenty of things on my mind, but since I don't want to offend or gossip I guess I will just have to keep mum for the time being.

I am on a huge civil war kick right now, both at school and here at home.  I recently finished re-watching Gone with the Wind, and now I am on to Gettysburg, Gods and Generals, and the Civil War documentary by Ken Burns.

All of your public schools across the nation are getting ready to transition over to what is called the Common Core.  Everything from language arts to science will be themed around various units throughout the school year.  For my student teaching I am going to be creating a Common Core Applied Project in which I will put together a portflolio of lessons, activities, and ideas combining the the educational core of the 5th grade with the theme of "American in Conflict" and the civil war.  My students do not have a clue what is in store for them next week, but I have all sorts of activites and lessons planned out that will connect to their spelling, math, science, and art. I am even teaching them how to dance the Virginia Reel. 

If you do not already know that we are currently commemorating the 150 Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War I highly suggest you check out http://www.nps.gov/civilwar150/ .  If I can plan it out just right, I want to visit Gettysburg next year and tour around the important sites of the war.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

French Bread

Ingredients:  Egg Whites, Water, Bread Flour, Gluten, Sugar, Salt, and Yeast
Making this loaf has been my first experience with shaping and baking my bread outside of my machine in my own oven.  My French Bread didn’t rise quite as much as I thought it would. I was kind of in a hurry to get it baked so I really should have let it rise awhile longer before I threw it in the oven.  But the flavor was perfect!  With each and every new bread that I make, I realize that I never should have to buy bread ever again; I have every flavor, shape, and possibility at my fingertips in my own kitchen.  I am trying to start out simple and work with things that I am familiar with, as I progress further along I am rather excited to start baking and making bread with things that I not usually found in my cupboard or pantry.
These past few days have been rather crazy and hectic.  Bread making is still in full swing, but my writing has become a little unbalanced.  I really shouldn’t be making excuses, but I want to give you a glimpse into a regular day in the life of this baker.
5:20am – Rise and get ready for the rehearsal. Shower, shave, eat a small breakfast, and pack all of the necessary bags for the day.
6:00am – Ballroom rehearsal. Just think of it as a two hour Zumba workout.
7:50am – Shower at the gym, dress for the day, breakfast in the car, and drive to work.
8:15am – Arrive at school and prepare for students to arrive.
9:00am – The bell rings and school begins.
12:00pm – Lunch and any errands that need to be taken care of on campus on the other side of town.
3:30pm – Final bell rings and students go home, lesson preparation, planning, and meetings.
4:30pm – Leave school and head home to put ingredients for a loaf of bread in the machine.
5:00pm – Ballroom technique dance class.
6:00pm – Dinner, lesson preparations for school, and work on anything else around the house that needs to be done for the day.
8:00pm – Running at the gym, shower again (You would think I was trying to drown myself).
9:00pm – Take my “bread of the day” out of my machine, catch up on the news, Facebook, politics, write my blog post for the day, and get ready for tomorrow.
10:30pm – Read from my novel, get ready for bed, and finally sleep . . . . zzzz zzzz z z.


"If bread is the first necessity of life, recreation is a close second." - Edward Bellamy, American writer (1850-1898)


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Coconut Milk White Bread

Ingredients:  Coconut Milk, Bread Flour, Gluten, Salt, and Yeast.

This stupid little loaf sounded so good and it came out of the machine looking like a squat little alien.  I couldn't even tell that it tasted like coconut and I was very disappointed.  My roommates all liked it so I left it out for them to eat.

"I understand the big food companies are developing a tearless onion. I think they can do it -- after all, they've already given us tasteless bread." - Robert Orben

Milk Bread

Ingredients:  Whole Milk,Sugar, Butter, Bread Flour, Gluten, Salt, and Yeast.

“Blues is to jazz what yeast is to bread. Without it, it's flat.” - Carmen McRae, Jazz vocalist and pianist. (1920-1994)


Basic Pizza Dough

Ingredients:  Water, Olive Oil, Flour, Sugar, Salt, and Yeast
I will never have to buy pizza ever again.  Making pizza dough in a bread machine is about as easy as falling off a log.  Even if you never plan on owning or using a bread machine to bake bread, if you like pizza then you simply must own a bread machine solely for the purpose of making your own homemade pizzas.  My roommates basically told me I should go into business to make pizzas they enjoyed mine so much.  After having the fun of tossing my pizza dough into the air over and over, I loaded it up with lots of sauce, pepperoni, and five different kinds of cheese.  I will be making more pizza soon.
“When the moon hits your eye like a big-a pizza pie that's amore.”

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Olive Oil Bread - Part 2

The Olive Oil bread was simply fantastic.  By the time I finally got around to finishing the loaf the biga had sat in my machine for 22 hours.  I served the bread today for lunch with chicken rigatoni with an olive oil and garlic sauce, and ceasar salad.  The power has been dimming due to the storm outside, so I am hoping my next loaf is able to finish baking properly.

Have you ever tried to talk politics with fifth graders?  Friday by far was probably one of the funniest lessons that I have every taught.  The students were all involved and many that normally didn't participate in class discussions were opening up to voice their opinions.  I remained completly neutraland tried not to suggest any favoritism toward any particular candidate.  The students asked dozens of questions about how elections work, how long presidents can stay in office, how old you have to be to vote, etc.  But the climax of the whole discussion was when one of my students called one of the candidates a "son of a bitch".  Every jaw in the class fell opened, then every student looked first toward the heckler, and then straight to me to see what I would do about it.  We simply continued the dicussion and I made the comment, "Now can you see why debates get so heated?"   Needless to say it was a rather interesting afternoon.

“Bread is a staple article of diet in theory, rather than in practice. There are few who are truly fond of bread in its simplest, most pure, and most healthful state....Is there one person in a thousand who would truly enjoy a meal of simple bread of two days old?” - William Andrus Alcott, ‘The Young House-keeper’ (1846)

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Olive Oil Bread - Part 1

“According to legend, the olive tree came into being as a result of a competition by the Greek god Zeus. Wanting to test the inventiveness of the gods, Zeus offered the City of Athens to the one who produced the most useful gift. The contest came down to Poseidon, god of the sea, who created a horse, and Athena, goddess of war and peace, who created the olive tree. Although the horse would be useful in wars, Zeus chose the olive tree: it provided food and fuel, soothed wounds, and symbolized divine blessing and peace.”
I am very excited for this “pane all’olio”.  After the disaster of last night I am once again attempting to try baking bread using a starter.  In honor of the occasion, and to cheer myself up, I have acquired a bottle of Extra-Virgin Olive Oil from Florence Italy for an authentic Tuscany flavor.  My “Biga” is currently rising in my bread machine and tomorrow afternoon, after the biga has sat for 18 hours, I will bake my Olive Oil Bread.
A “Biga” is a type of starter used in Italian baking. Many popular types of Italian bread are created using a biga. It adds complexity to the bread's flavor and helps to preserve bread by making it less perishable.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Shepherd's Bread

Salt is a very important ingredient when baking bread.  Without salt your bread will not only taste terrible, but the blob of dough will resemble something reminiscent of a 1950's horror movie. The smell of hot bread still lingers in the air, but my Shepherd's bread has been unceremoniously tossed in the trash and I am going to bed.  I am in no mood to write more tonight.

“Bread rises when infected with the yeast germ because millions of these little worms have been born and have died, and from their dead and decaying bodies there rises a gas just as it does from the dead body of a hog.” - Mr. & Mrs. Eugene Christian 'Uncooked foods and How to Use Them' (1905)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Orange Bread with White Chocolate, Apricots, and Walnuts

Ingredients:  Mandarin Orange, Orange Liquid, White Chocolate, Minced Dried Apricots, Walnuts, Butter, Bread Flour, Sugar, Gluten, Salt, and Yeast
We have a new favorite in the house!  This sweet breakfast bread was simply divine.  The mandarin orange segments spread through the entire loaf during kneading giving this bread a wonderful orange flavor surrounded by amazing pockets of walnuts, apricots, and white chocolate chips.  Needless to say it disappeared extremely fast.
I have spent a relaxing weekend at home baking, planning lessons for my students, and working on the itinerary for our Ballroom Dance Company Alaskan cruise this May.  The pictures, videos, and descriptions of Alaska are almost too much for me.  I can’t wait!
This week we are holding auditions to fill a few vacant spot on our dance team and then we will start working on our Latin medley.  This year we have selected the music from the movie “Burlesque” for our medley and I am very excited to start learning the choreography.  Several members of the team and I went and saw the show together last year and we were practically out of our seats dancing the music was so energetic.  The costumes are ready, the music is cut, and we scheduled to start Wednesday.
“Good bread is the great need in poor homes, and oftentimes the best appreciated luxury in the homes of the very rich.” - ‘A Book for A Cook’, The Pillsbury Co. (1905)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Crescia al Formaggio

Ingredients: Asiago Cheese, Water, Eggs, Olive Oil, Bread Flour, Dry Milk, Sugar, Gluten, Salt, and Yeast.
Asiago is an Italian cow's milk cheese that is often grated into salads, soups, pastas, and sauces. The only "official" Asiago cheese is produced in the alpine area of the town of Asiago, in the Veneto region of Italy. The production area is strictly defined: it starts from the meadows of the Po Valley and finishes in the Alpine pastures between the Asiago Plateau and the Trentino's highlands. Many imitations of Asiago are produced elsewhere using different techniques and cultures that produce a cheese of a similar aspect but with a totally different taste. 
Sadly the only Asiago cheese that I could get my hands on did not come from the romantic mountains of Italy, but from the charming little state of Wisconsin. I found a website where I could buy official Asiago Cheese from Italy for $9.49 for 8oz, but for now this college guy will have to be happy with my Wisconsin alternate.
The Crescia al Formaggio is said to be a great picnic bread, so my lunch for this afternoon consists of cold chicken, grapes, and my Asiago bread.  Images of the Italian countryside are brought to mind as I enjoy this simple but amazing feast.
“Bread, milk and butter are of venerable antiquity. They taste of the morning of the world.” - Leigh Hunt (1784-1859)



Saturday, January 14, 2012

Peasant Bread

I am currently watching the movie “Julie & Julia” which tells the fabulous true stories of Julie Powell and Julia Childs.  I remember seeing this movie years ago and immediately wanting to go into the kitchen to make wonderful food with my own ingredients and supplies. Here I am a few years later finally beginning to pass something that resembles that original yearning. This movie has served as part of the inspiration for my desire to try something completely new and to write about it. So Julie Powell, wherever you are, thanks for being an inspiration to us, not only to make wonderful food, but to write about life as well.  I admit that although my challenge of baking my way through a few hundred loaves of bread is not quite as daunting as baking my way through the entire Julia Childs cookbook, I have decided that for a single guy still in college this will have to serve as my entrance into the cooking world.  You have to start somewhere right?  So even though there are European bread makers rolling over in their graves every time my bread maker goes into another cycle of kneading, I am finally on the road to trying new flavors, buying new ingredients, and experiencing something new in the kitchen.
My mother is an amazing cook.  At home we always have hot loaves of bread coming out of the oven, warm casseroles, delicious roasts, loaded baked potatoes, and dozens of other amazing dishes that keep young boys growing from one pair of pants to another.  But . . .  we didn’t really have any spices or flavors in the house that I would truly call “exotic”.  We grew up on foods that were delicious, filling, and economical. And although we never have or will know the pangs of an empty stomach at home, we siblings have to go out of our way to try new foods.   I have tried to share new foods at home, but I have been informed that my Mexican Hot Chocolate smells like shoe polish, and that basic tomato soup with rosemary and croutons in it is inedible.  Mom, I love you dearly, but the next time I come home, we will be trying some new flavors of bread in your kitchen.
I am not trying to complete these recipes in any particular order.  Beth’s bread maker recipe book includes 298 recipes for bread, 15 for jams and preserves, and dozens of other ideas of what to eat with your bread.
Today the bread artisans of Europe are cringing at the thought of me baking their “Pain cuit au feu de bois” in the droid-like machine that that is sitting on my kitchen counter.  The country or peasant breads of Europe are considered to be the pinnacle in bread making and with one taste of my excellent Peasant Bread I must admit I agree.  Country breads are known for using basic raw ingredients such as: organic flours, natural leaven, pure spring water, and sea salt which enhance the flavor of these traditional favorites.
"How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?" - Julia Child

Black Olive Bread

Black Olives, Olive Oil, Milk, Honey, Bread Flour, Rye Flour, Gluten, Salt, and Yeast
This loaf of bread has a serious black olive taste, almost to the point that I felt that there were too many olives in the loaf.  It has a wonderful flavor, but I found that I could only eat a thin slice at a time because of the flavor.  I tried spreading whipped cream cheese on the bread which mellowed out the black olives and made it much more enjoyable.  My craving for potato soup kicked in after writing about it the other day, so for dinner we enjoyed potato soup with bacon bits and fresh Black Olive Bread with whipped cream cheese.  This has not been a favorite of the breads that I have done so far, but I plan to try it again sometime with green olives, just to see what it tastes like.
“Give me yesterday's bread, this day's flesh, and last year's cider.” - Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Toasted Walnut Bread

Ingredients:  Walnuts, Water, Egg Whites, Butter, Flour, Sugar, Powdered Milk, Gluten, Salt, and Yeast.
Once again my bread has collapsed on me.  The dough kept rising until it hit the top of my maker and then collapsed.  But as I said before, I am learning as I go along. Next time I have made a note to just make the 1.5 lbs loaf and hopefully it will not raise so much.  The Toasted Walnut Bread really is quite tasty; I made an orange marmalade butter to go with the bread and I think the combination is fantastic.  The recipe book also suggests eating potato soup with this bread, but since I have already been to the store twice today, and even though potato soup sounds amazing right now, I am going to just be content with eating my bread and butter.
I have learned a few tips on keeping your bread fresh:  (1) Slice your loaves of  bread as you eat them, rather than slicing them all at one time. (2)  Store bread in a bread box or brown paper bag. (3) Do not refrigerate your bread, if you do it will stale quicker.
"Bread is the warmest, kindest of all words. Write it always with a capital letter, like your own name." - A café sign

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chocolate Challah

Ingredients:  Cocoa Powder, Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips, Water, Eggs, Vegetable Oil, Vanilla Extract, Bread Flour, Sugar, Gluten, Salt, and Yeast.

This is by far the favorite of everyone!  My roommates and friends ate this bread so fast that I only got one slice for myself.  The pockets of melted chocolate made eating this Chocolate Challah a heavenly experience indeed.  A Challah is a traditional Jewish egg bread, often resembling more of a cake than a bread; after eating this one, I certainly agree. I took personal liberties to adorn the crust with powdered sugar and more chocolate.  It looked so good I almost did not have the heart to slice it.  This is one recipe that is going to be made again very very soon.
So I ran into a slight problem shopping today. Where do you find rye flour in Cedar City, Utah?  I found a small one pound bag that will get me by for certain recipes, but before I can start making some true rye breads I am going to need to acquire some real flour.
"Honest bread is very well - it's the butter that makes the temptation." - Douglas Jerrold (1803-1857)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pain d'Ail

Ingredients: Garlic, Butter, Water, Bread Flour, Gluten, Sugar, Salt, and Yeast.
This bread by far has had the biggest impact on our apartment.  Garlic has such an amazing flavor, but wow what a smell it creates when you are cooking with it.  As a companion to the Pain d’Ail I made pasta with farfalle noodles and a five cheese sauce. I must say that lunch was sublime.  I toasted the leftover Pain d’Ail in the oven tonight and made crumbs to bread baked eggplant.  I have never eaten eggplant before and even though I followed the recipe and friends told me it looked right, I have decided that I really am not a fan.  Sometime I am going to have to try eggplant somewhere else to give it another try. 
Today I returned to my early morning 6:00am rehearsals with the SUU Ballroom Dance Company.  Over the past few years in college I have traveled with my dance company to the sunny beaches of California, to the nightlife of Las Vegas, to the National Collegiate Ballroom Dance Championships in the Midwest, across my state of Utah, and to the Hawaiian Islands.  This May my team and I are going on an amazing Alaskan cruise; we will perform and tour across Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and British Colombia.  I honestly did a little happy dance in my kitchen when I found out.
“Acorns were good till bread was found.” - Francis Bacon, English philosopher, statesman (1561-1626)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Yogurt Bread

Ingredients: Yogurt, Water, Bread flour, Gluten, Salt, Yeast
This morning for breakfast I prepared French toast with my loaf of Yogurt Bread.  It was simply fantastic!  I love breakfast foods, but quite frequently I never seem to have time to make anything in the morning. To make my meal taste even better I used REAL maple syrup. If you have never used this before I highly recommend that you do, it does cost a bit more, but the taste is fantastic.  I love being able to look at the ingredient list on a product and see just the basics. Only one ingredient listed here: maple syrup. Compare that to the other syrup in my cupboard whose ingredients include: high fructose corn syrup, cellulose gum, artificial flavor, sorbic acid, sodium benzoate, sulfer dioxide, color, and sodium citrate.  I do not have any idea what half of those are, so I do believe I am now a fan of real maple syrup, especially when it is drizzled over Yogurt Bread French Toast on a cold January morning.

Today was the first day in my student teaching classroom and the kids were  . . . let’s just say they were kids.  I love how they get so excited over the smallest things and everything is a big and important event to them.  I have several fans already, one student informed me after the first three hours that I was the best teacher ever.  I have not even taught yet.  When we went to the library they were curious about what books I liked to read and began asking me all sorts of questions.  I left the library with Fabelhaven by Brandon Mull in my hand; it came highly recommended by my class.  For lunch I ate a Tuna Fish Sandwich on Yogurt Bread.  It was very scrumptious.  I like the sweet taste that the yogurt gives to the bread.  Yogurt Bread is perfect for sandwiches.
Tonight I have taken the left-over bread from the day and made Melba toast.  - - - After a relationship breakup, Shirley MacLaine apparently ate her way through an entire box of Melba toast while sitting in a hotel in Stockholm. 

"There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” - Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Honey White Bread

I shared my loaf of Honey White Bread with my sister and her family tonight.  Over the past few days I have learned quite a bit about the basics of making bread and I am getting very excited about the challenge that lies ahead of me.  I do not deny that I have not questioned if what I am attempting to do is even possible, but I believe that if we don’t give ourselves a real challenge once in a while how will ever learn to overcome the what we think is impossible?  Tomorrow is my first day of my final semester at college and my first day of student teaching.  I cannot wait to meet my new students and be a part of their education.  College has been a long and adventurous road and I must admit that it is kind of weird to think that it is about over.  Perhaps that is why I gave myself this challenge in the first place, so that I can continue learning.  Stop and think for a second of something that you are interested in learning about.  Why did you pick that topic?  What can you do to learn more about it?  What is stopping you?  As I begin my bread baking resolution I leave this challenge for you:  Find something that you have always wanted to do and begin today to take the beginning steps to achieving it.  Write it down. Post it somewhere that you will see it often. Do not give up.
 Goodnight everyone.  My loaf of Yogurt Bread is about done and I need to get some sleep before I play kick-ball at recess tomorrow.
“Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts.” - James Beard (1903-1985)

Zopf

Zopf is a traditional egg bread of Switzerland.  I learned while making this loaf that breads created with eggs are considered by many to be sacred.  Traditionally each culture that worships has a pain du sacresant that usually contains eggs.  So as I eat my Zopf of Switzerland I am reminded that each day is full of new blessings and that even a humble slice of bread can be eaten with reverence and thanksgiving.  Sadly this was not the first loaf of Zopf that I tried.  I got in a hurry and tried to bake a smaller loaf on my Express-bake setting and ended up with a very cute loaf that inside was nothing but uncooked dough.  Patience is a virtue best learned by waiting.  In the future I need to remember that I cannot cut corners and still hope to achieve the best results.  I hope you all have a wonderful Sunday afternoon. A friend and I are eating our Zopf (Isn’t that just fun to say?) for Sunday dinner.  I used the bread to make grilled chicken sandwiches to accompany warm bowls of vegetable soup.
  “All sorrows are less with bread.” - Miguel de Cervantes, Spanish author. (1547-1616)

Country White Bread

Disaster has occurred.  My bread collapsed on me and there now is a massive sinkhole in the middle of my loaf.  I don’t know if this happened on account of the storm or if I did something wrong and the yeast rose too fast.  I have always heard that storms can affect your cooking, but if this was the price to pay for getting some snow I guess it was worth it.  We have had a long dry winter without any snow and if we don’t get some real snow soon we are going to be in some serious trouble come next summer when everything is dry and on fire.  The Country Bread for itself tastes pretty good.  The slices look ridiculous, but I guess it just goes to show that just because something or someone doesn’t look the way you think they should, doesn’t mean that they do not have their own unique flavor and style that is all their own.  Lessons for the day:  Don’t bake during a storm, double check all your measurements, and enjoy life even when it doesn’t turn out the way you expected.
“I like reality that tastes like bread.” - Jean Anouilh (1910-1987)

Saturday, January 7, 2012

The First Loaf - Homestyle White Bread

I finally was ready to begin baking my very first loaf of bread! I skipped past all the introduction sections of my cookbook to the first page on how to make your first loaf.  (I will go back and read everything I was supposed to later)  I carefully measured out all the ingredients into the baking pan, set the dials to the setting I wanted, and pushed the button to start.  My bread machine came to life and began to knead my bread right in front of my eyes.  I don’t know if a baker from the 19th century would roll over in his grave or be super jealous watching my machine mix and shape my happy little loaf, but for me I was simply thrilled.  I had set the dials for a quick bake which meant I would have a loaf of hot bread ready in less than an hour!  As I patiently waited for the bread to bake I cleared out a shelf in my cupboard especially for my new ingredients.  Before long the magical smell of baking bread was moving about the apartment and I began to salivate.  I know you should wait a little while for bread to cool after it is done baking but I really couldn’t wait any longer.  I sliced some rather nice sized pieces of bread off the fresh loaf then lathered each slice with butter and homemade plum jam and my friends and I were in sheer heaven.  Before long the entire loaf had disappeared.

"I am going to learn to make bread tomorrow. So you may imagine me with my sleeves rolled up, mixing flour, milk, saleratus, etc., with a deal of grace. I advise you if you don't know how to make the staff of life to learn with dispatch." - Emily Dickinson, American poet (1830-1886)

The Challenge - How it all began.


During my years in college I have toyed around with the idea of teaching myself how to bake bread.  I have many fond memories from childhood of my mother pulling warm loaves of bread out of the oven and now that I am away from home and living the life of a single bachelor at college there is nothing I wouldn't do for a hot meal and a slice of fresh bread.   I have finally made up my mind that I am ready for a good challenge.  I am in my final semester of college completing my student teaching before I graduate this May with a dual major in Special and Elementary Education, and  I know that between writing lesson plans and correcting spelling tests I am going to need a project that will allow me to have some fun and try something completely new. 
I had heard about bread makers from time to time but I never really gave much thought to getting one myself until this past holiday season.  I was at my sister's home when I saw my first bread maker in action.  It was amazing!  I was hooked on the idea instantly and I knew that I had to have one for myself.  Soon I began shopping around, but for some reason I was not having much luck finding a bread machine anywhere.  I was home from college on my Christmas break and being from a small town my choices in stores was extremely slim.  So I turned to my favorite website... AMAZON!  Within a few minutes I found a model that I liked, (Please remember that I really do not know what I am talking about, since this whole process is completely new to me, I am sure some of you might have recommended a different model, etc. etc and on and on, but for my needs at the moment, I was content.) and I put it in my cart.   I also decided on that same online shopping spree that I wanted to purchase a cookbook at the same time to go along with my new machine.   Many online users said that they loved their bread makers but were not happy with the recipes that were included and suggested that I buy a supplemental book to bake from instead.  Out of a the air I selected  The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger and added that to my cart as well.  I was ready to checkout.   It was Christmas night and I couldn't help but think that this was really a fun present for myself.  As I typed in my information to complete the purchase I could almost taste the homemade bread that would be created in my kitchen during the New Year.  With a final click of the mouse my adventure began.
Now I had to wait.  Since I was home for the holidays I thought it would be best to have the items shipped to my home, but as the days began to slip away I realized my purchases were not going to arrive on time.  I went back to college empty handed and irritated.  I found out that a cousin of mine was traveling to Cedar a few days behind me and that she could bring me my items when they arrived.  I frantically tracked my orders as they left Denver and traveled to Salt Lake City.  Would they make it before she left town? . . .    No.  Well, the cookbook did, but the machine didn't. I still was stuck but I had not given up just yet.  A genius idea occurred to me, if I could find a bread maker in Cedar I could simply buy it and send the other one back!  Sorry Amazon, but my hunger for home baked bread simply could not wait any longer.
My second shopping spree began.  I found an Oster Expressbake 2lb. Breadmaker and placed it ceremoniously in my Wal-Mart shopping cart.  Moving up and down the aisles at the store I filled my cart full of flour, sugar, salt, gluten, yeast, butter, powdered milk, and measuring cups.  I was ready to go home and bake my first loaf of bread . . .  only my card would not work and I couldn’t pay for any of it.
One might think at this point that perhaps I should not be baking bread, that I should pay attention to the signs and just forget the whole crazy idea.  Instead it just fueled me with the desire to not give up.  By a chance of good fortune (See, I knew I was supposed to bake bread) I ran into my sister and her husband at the store in my moment of need and they bought everything for me.  Once I get my card working and a loaf of bread baked, I will be right over to see them.
And that is how it all started, on a whim.  I do not know exactly how I came to the decision that I would work my way through all 300 recipes, but after watching Julie & Julia it just seemed like the right thing to do.  As for my writing this Blog, it also just seemed like the fun thing to do.  I hope you enjoy following along and we learn together about different breads, recipes, flavors, and techniques as we bake our way through the 2012 year.
Happy New Year and welcome!
"Breadbaking is one of those almost hypnotic businesses, like a dance from some ancient ceremony. It leaves you filled with one of the world's sweetest smells...there is no chiropractic treatment, no Yoga exercise, no hour of meditation in a music-throbbing chapel. that will leave you emptier of bad thoughts than this homely ceremony of making bread."

M. F. K. Fisher, ‘The Art of Eating’