Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sensual Bread Making

To be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of loving to the making of bread.
James A. Baldwin, American novelist (1927-1984)

With the exception of making buns about a decade ago when bread makers were all the rage, I have not made bread since the Summer of my tenth birthday, but the art of bread making is something that I have wanted to master, I suppose because homemade bread embodies the essence of life. Its soothing aroma, its bronze, crispy crust that crunches heartily with each bite, and its understated scrumptious flavour seem to embody the good in life. Thus, four decades after my first attempt, my list of 2011 resolutions was topped with "bake bread". Today I took a little step towards that resolution.

Somewhat daunted by the seemingly complicated and time-consuming process required to make a good loaf, I started my learning curve with a simple recipe handed down by an Italian grandmother that has since spread like butter on an oven-fresh slice throughout the blogosphere. Nonna's Crusty Bread was tested and raved about by Katy on Food for a Hungry Soul who promised that it was the easiest, crustiest, and tastiest recipe in her experience. I'm quite happy with my results. I loved the feel of the dough as my hands tried to coax it into shape and it was such a thrill to pull the bronzed loaves from the oven, so with this successful first step I have the courage to try something a little more complex. Stay tuned.

As promised, here is the result of my first ever strawberry pie. I underlined the strawberries with leftover chocolate which got a little thick in places, making cutting a little challenging and teaching me that in some cases, even with chocolate, less is more. In my next attempt, and there will be a next attempt, I will use the chocolate to decorate the plate.

Strawberry Pie

1 (9 inch) pie crust, baked
1 1/2 quarts fresh strawberries
1/2 cup white sugar *
3 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup water

1. Wash and haul strawberries. Stand a layer of complete berries in the pie shell.
2. Puree the remaining berries and pour into a medium saucepan. Add water. Mix together sugar and cornstarch together and then combine with berries.
3. Place saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil for 2 minutes until mixture is thickened. Remove from heat and cool slightly, then pour mixture over berries in the pie shell.
4. Chill for several hours, or overnight, before serving. Serve with whipped cream.

Source: Inspired by the Strawberry Pie II recipe on
Notes: * original recipe called for 1 cup of sugar but I thought that might be too sweet.


John said...

I love your bread description... I would confess to using a machine (OK - wimp - I know...)for the past decade. We regularly get our flour from here:

It's about 10 mins down the road from Verulanium and the St.Albans Museum.
If you have time, take a look at 'History' and 'Gallery' links.
The mill usually gets its grain from the farm that's less than a mile away. I'd love to send you some but that would spoil the Mills' 'zero air miles' record !


Shari said...

Wow, your bread must have depth with all the history that goes into the flour! Thanks for the link to Redbourn Mill and its fascinating history. Imagine that nasty abbot taking away people's querns so that they had to pay to use his mill. Sounds like Machiavelli learned a lesson or two from him!

We have a few old mills here that still produce flour and your comment has me contemplating a few field trips. Thank you for the inspiration!

Katy ~ said...

Shari, I am thrilled you enjoyed this bread; yours looks positively beautiful!

Wishing you loaves of love and blessings,

Anonymous said...

I have Great-Grandma Smart's bread recipe. I'll have to dig it out for you when we eventually unpack. It calls for potatoes and is a little "incomplete" when it comes to cooking times/temp. I tried it once to less than stellar reviews but I'd love to try it again - a little more experimentation is required.


Shari said...

I'd love to revive Grandma Smart's recipe but take your time finding it . . . it sounds like it is more advanced than the baby steps I still need to master.