Bread baking is one of the oldest crafts in the world. Bread loaves & rolls have been found in Egyptian tombs, and bread or “solid cakes” made from crushed barley and wheat go back to the Stone Age. Bread has been around for a long time. I started baking bread in 1983. My first ‘loaf’ was from a recipe I found in a Betty Crocker Cookbook. I acquired a sourdough starter shortly after making that first loaf, and the rest is history. I now have 2 sourdough starters, one for white/whole wheat and a rye sourdough starter. While I still find good recipes to follow, I started creating my own recipes. The dark colored dough rising in the big blue bowl (see image) is a Sourdough Chocolate Espresso Stout Rye Bread. Yes. One of my finest creations yet. But what is it about ‘bread’ that people ooh and awe over? Is it the fresh milled flour from the grain mill? Is it the special, perfect flour sack towel that you place over the bread to let it rise ? Is it the crackle of the fire in the wood cook stove while it is getting to the right temperature? Or, is it the smell of fresh baked bread coming right out of the oven? Is it that first slice, the heel in fact, that some people just have to have warm with a little ghee or honey? Is it placing the fresh loaf of bread on a cutting board at the dinner table with a serrated knife beside it? Is it the feel and texture of the dough when you are kneading, or the way the crust sounds when you tap it with the back of your knuckle to see if it is done?
I think it is all of the above. But mostly, I think bread is most special when it is shared. Baking in a wood cook stove is an art because the heat in the oven is uneven. Baking bread is sort of like a ‘bread dance’, having to shuffle the loaves so they would brown evenly in the Wood Cook Stove oven. And how do you like your bread? With a little butter, or jam, honey or just plain? I’ll let you be the judge of that! (photos generously taken by Stephen Smith)