What is something you’ve had to practice in order to be good at?
This was the ice-breaker question my husband posed to our small group at our last meeting. Knowing that the answer didn’t have to be “spiritual,” my answer came to me pretty quickly: making bread!
Right away, this one goal presented me with quite a challenge. If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might remember from my “Kneading” Heaven post that I have a focal point dystonia of the forearm which has greatly affected my ability to write and to do other common tasks that require the use of the muscles in the forearm–such as kneading dough.
Knowing what the consequences of kneading dough by hand would be–and having neither a stand mixer nor enough loaf pans to oven-bake my bread–I decided I would try adapting the bread recipe to my bread machine (which I had used only two times before). However, when I pulled my neglected bread machine out of the cupboard and prepared to use it, I realized that the paddle was missing. I was perplexed at first, but then I remembered that on the second occasion I had made bread in the machine, it had finished baking just as I was running out the door; so I had hastily wrapped it up without taking time to remove the paddle from the loaf. And days later when the still untouched loaf had started to mold, I threw it out, evidently forgetting that the paddle was still inside.
While I was lamenting my stupid mistake, my mom came up with a great idea: “Maybe you could have the kids take turns helping you knead.” I loved it! Kids love to get their hands messy, Abel loves to cook, and I would love the help! Not only would it save me some pain, it would buy me some time before I would have to purchase either a replacement paddle for the bread machine or a new stand mixer (thus appealing to my frugal nature)!
So, when I we first started making bread back in November, Abel did all of the kneading for me.
The loaves we turned out weren’t super, but they tasted good and they were good enough to keep us from having to buy bread.
Then, the weekend of Black Friday, my husband found us a great deal on the 5-quart 475-watt KitchenAid Stand Mixer I wanted so badly!
I got the silver one (and it really did come with those cool prep bowls and the nifty timer!) for only $199.99! Abel had been replaced (as the “kneader,” that is), but he didn’t mind. He enjoyed enjoys the new mixer almost as much as I do!
Here is the first full batch of bread I made using my amazing new appliance. I still had only one loaf pan at the time, so I used the extra dough to make a few dinner rolls, breadsticks, and pretzels. (Well, they were supposed to look like breadsticks and pretzels….)
The next investment we made was on a second stoneware loaf pan. (I actually had one boxed up with some stuff I was going to sell at a garage sale, but when I learned that stoneware is the way to go, I pulled it out and put it to use!)
And the latest addition to my bread-baking equipment was this!
For Christmas, Travis’ parents bought me the grain mill attachment for my KitchenAid mixer! This thing is awesome! Having tried out a manual grain mill a couple months ago (and therefore knowing how much work it could be to grind my own flour), I felt totally spoiled to have a piece of equipment that does all the work for me.
The decision to begin baking my own bread required not only the acquisition of some equipment (which, after seeing the health benefits, I can say has been totally worth it!); it has also required the acquisition of knowledge and experience. I didn’t realize what an art bread baking really is. I’ve been “practicing” making bread for a little over two months now, and I am just finally starting to end up with loaves that I’m not embarrassed to share with company.
Learning to make bread has been quite an adventure; but I guess since practice makes perfect, this perfectionist will keep right on practicing!