Gentle Reader: Since recorded time people have been baking bread and talking about it: ancient Egyptians in the 20th century BC, public ovens in Rome, and the Israelites as they journeyed through the wilderness. Writings abound with metaphors such as: the staff of life and the bread of the world– populating biblical parables and present day parallels.
Father Robert West, former abbot of Assumption Abbey taught me something his mother always did before cutting a fresh loaf of bread. She inverted the loaf and blessed the bread saying the trinity prayer while making a small cross with the tip of her knife. This practice grounds me spiritually and reminds me that North Dakota is the breadbasket of the world.
The loaf in the photo (or what remains of her gift) was made by my friend, Liz– a consummate cook and host. This hearty bread is graced with sunflower seeds throughout as well as crowned on top. Of course, I forgot to take a picture when it was still whole and in its presentation basket wrapped in a lovely French napkin. But like the bread of the ages Liz’s offering was shared with extended family at the lake this weekend, and a piece headed to Hazen while the remainder came back to two households in Bismarck.
I’ve made countless kinds of bread in my life from homemade buns, to quick bread, to caramel rolls, and dozens of loaves from Dakota Maid mixes in my bread machine (these are a product of our state-owned mill and elevator).
I just realized I never make bread without giving part of it away.
I’ll confess that I really don’t have much patience for the act of serious bread making nor does my waist-line have the tolerance for much consumption. However, the best bread I’ve ever eaten (EVER!) was the bread bought at the village street markets in Provence France. Their flour and baking technique allow the bread to blister on the surface which is the sign that the bread has achieved the proper rise and temperature while baking. One simply does not buy loaves without that characteristic.
Fast forward to today and imagine me grumbling as I scour every loaf of French bread in the supermarket looking for any hint of blisters and the store employee looking at me like I’ve swallowed yeast whole. So, my dear Julia Child, this foodie shall replay your DVR program on baking bread and give it a go. Bon Appétit!