Bon Mots and Cheap Shots

In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus

My Dad used to make bread.  I think his whole family made bread.  His Mother did.  I remember his sister Rosa making bread.  They grew up on a farm in Missouri during the Depression.  I doubt they had a choice.  I’m sure I’ll hear about this, but I don’t really know why my Mother didn’t make bread, but she didn’t.  My Father is kind of an essentric character.  I remember him baking at night when he got home from work, (he was a real estate broker).  It was generally basic stuff.  White bread, oatmeal cookies, peanut butter cookies.  And he always played music loud.  One of his favorites was Arthur Rubinstein playing Chopins waltzes.  And then there was the Clancy Brothers.  And the German beer drinking music.

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I think some of this memory might have to do with the fact that my Mother was the night nurse at General Motors in Fremont.  Knowing what I know today about that General Motors plant in Fremont, I’m amazed she stayed there as long as she did.  She has never suffered fools lightly and GM Fremont was rife with fools.  Many years later when The Brother was shipped off to Detroit by EDS in his first real job after college he was told that the plant in Fremont was shut down because they could never get the drug problem under control.  I had certainly heard stories of guys using roach clips in the construction of new vehicles so it didn’t surprise me.  There’s a reason I don’t own a GM car.

Focus, Wine Dog, focus.  Sometimes I don’t know how my thought process works but I decided that I would like to bake some bread.  I have not baked anything more than a batch or two of cookies in really close to 10 years.  I have never made a cake from scratch that didn’t have carrots in it.  I do bake pies occasionally and make a decent crust.  Occasionally I’ll make a cobbler, but at the end of the day I’m not really a baker.  I can cook and grill with the best of them, but baking isn’t really my thing.  Probably because I never perfected any of those skills because I’ve always fought with my weight and have for the most part lived alone.  No one but me to eat it, don’t make it in the first place and cause myself problems.  But I’ve been having a sandwich for lunch every day for months now and thought “Why don’t I make the bread myself?”  So last night I did.  I asked the Engineer Baker for a simple bread recipe.  Keep in mind her Father is the Professor Cousin.  He cooks like I do, only more intrinsic stuff.  The Engineer Baker learned from her Mother who is apparently an amazing baker.  She sent me a simple bread recipe from her Mother’s side of the family.  So simple that it didn’t have a measurement for flour.  When I first saw the recipe I thought it might have been my Grandmother’s recipe, but it turns out that it was her Mother’s Grandmother’s recipe.  I spent half the day looking at that recipe before I decided that as simple as it was, I didn’t have the skills to just “know” that I got the flour right.  I needed simpler.  Then I remembered that The Brother had given me a bunch of King Arthur Flour recipe books.  I went to them but simple white bread wasn’t one of the recipes in the Whole Grain Cookbook or the Cookie book.  So I went on line and found the King Arthur Flour GUARANGODAMNTEED White Sandwich Bread recipe.  It had a measurement for flour.  But it had instand mashed potato flake in it.  The Brother has taught me to look at cooking like chemistry, so I asked myself why?  Probably for density to hold it together better for sandwichs.  OK, then I can do that.  When I got home from my appointment last evening I pulled out the stand mixer, because the recipe said I could use it, pulled out the dough hooks and had at it.  It was ridiculously simple and I should not have spent all day fretting about Engineer Baker’s family recipe, I could have done it.

I’m lucky, when I pour out dough to rise, I get to put it in the family Bauer bowls.


Those are what my Dad used and I think they just work better for bread.  I do have one of those gizmo-ridden ovens and mine has a button called “bread proof”. It’s a setting for raising bread.  Seriously.  And it works good.


Really good.


And the oven does a damned fine job of cooking evenly.


Although something happened that made it list to the right I’m not sure what that was.  The house was a little cold but the oven was right so maybe pulling it out while I preheated the oven did that.


It didn’t hurt the bread at all.  And I broke the law on the recipe and cut it hot.   Because that’s what my family always did.  And buttered it.  And ate the crust.  I may start baking bread every week.  It was that simple and I’m pretty embarrassed that I was that afraid of the process.

Y’all will be pleased to know that today is the Winter Wineland.  I’m heading North with The Somm, Sonofabun and The Contessa.  Please keep your cell phones on and your bail money handy.  Just in case.  Full report and photojournalism of this buffoonery will be provided later in the week.


  • dolphyngyrl

    You know, I totally don’t remember huge chunks of my childhood, but this brought back baking bread with my (German) Nana. She had teensy loaf pans “just for me”. I think I need to dig out my dough hooks and try this… 🙂

  • The Brother

    1) Mother baked, just not as much. Given that dad was such a fantastic baker, why would she?
    2) That is a beautiful looking first shot, but by looking at it I can tell that you need to get more flour into your dough. It was too soft which is why you had your dome kind of flow all over. You may have also overproofed it a tad on the second rise. These are minor and easily correctible issues. Bread is one of those things you learn by doing, over and over, which is why Dad and Aunt Rosa could never really give us a recipe, and why I stood over dad once and watched him do it. I’ll see if I can find my original notes, but essentially I now just remember how he did it.
    3) If bowls could talk, that bowl has raised more bread than Kilpatricks.

  • OldTitleGuy

    Okay, now you have to make French Toast. See Alton Brown’s recipe and method, and add orange zest and vanilla extract. If you’re feeling ambitious, stuff with cream cheese and orange marmalade.

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