Being Friends with Bread
Since my mother didn’t make fresh bread often (she wouldn't have been able to keep up with the monstrous appetites of six teenage boys and one little girl), it was a special occasion when she did. It was usually after she had been working on a fresh batch of raspberry jam, before it was all put into jars to save for the coming season. Fresh bread was considered dessert as it came piping hot out of the oven, to be slathered with butter and homemade raspberry jam.
I certainly wasn’t a perfect child. I complained when she woke me up at 6am in the summer to go pick raspberries before the sun made its scorching debut. I was impatient as I stirred the jam, waiting for it to thicken and boil. I opened the oven before the bread was done, eagerly awaiting its warm perfection. In hindsight, my mother had nearly unlimited patience with my antics, responding with gentle instruction and filling me with love and delectable treats.
Over the last ten years, my relationship with bread has become more complicated, as most things do as we become adults. Fears and anxieties of weight gain, gluten intolerances, diabetes, etc. are real for each of us. We pause before biting into the softness of fresh bread. In a world that has become obsessed with gluten and grain-free, bread has gotten a lousy reputation. We treat it like an outcast, or a bad temptation, but without the redeeming qualities of, say, chocolate.
Recently I attended a workshop on the health benefits of eating homemade sourdough bread. (We will be hosting a similar workshop with Time Traveler’s Bakery in our store on May 14th. You can see event details here.) The workshop changed my perspective on how I can keep bread in my life without the same health anxieties, how my diabetic father can still eat bread but not cause his blood sugar to spike, how my mother might still bake fresh bread without all her adult children shrinking in fear of the carbs and gluten. The health benefits of sourdough are immense (read more here).
One of my takeaways from the course was that if I ever wanted to make my own bread, I ought to invest in a ceramic bread baker to get that hard crust and a supple interior we love in fresh bread. Two years ago, we discovered these glorious ceramic bread bakers, made in Spring City, Utah. We have had them in the store, and I have loved the look of them. They are rustic, but simple and modern at the same time. But it wasn’t until I tried fresh bread from within their warm confines, that I can truly sing bread baker praises.
The ceramic bread baker creates the perfect crusty outside with a delightfully soft inside. It is meant to last a lifetime or longer. It ages well and feels timeless. In fact, the more it is used, the better the bread made from it becomes as the porous clay takes in the flavors of the loaves it has cooked and transfers them to each successive loaf. It has a glazed interior for easy bread removal and cleaning, while the exterior has a beautiful rough clay texture. Each baker is handmade and unique. They range from more gray clay-colored tones to warmer terracotta colors.
Included with the bread baker is a recipe for a quick and simple crusty bread. It is easy enough to sprinkle some flaked salt, or herbs on top to spice things up a bit. Or if you are willing to commit to using a sourdough start, know that this is the right baker for your sourdough to have the perfect crust.
Share the warmth and comfort that comes from a freshly baked loaf of bread and a dollop of raspberry jam this Mother's Day. The bread baker, along with the Sourdough Workshop, is a meaningful gift that outlasts the moment of giving, recreated each time a fresh loaf is baked. Give the baker and workshop together, and you will enjoy experimenting, sharing bread recipes, baking for each other, and baking for others for years to come.