52 weeks ago I made a resolution about bread. A simple task. One new variety per week, made by my own two hands. The task was not all together daunting, but mostly exciting. I envisioned myself an expert by the time December rolled around. My kitchen would be brimming with tools that could equip the finest of bakeries. Never again would the cellophane wrapped store-bought loaf have to enter my bread box.
While it is rare to have to pick up a soft and squishy loaf (as my boys have deemed them), it does happen. I am not by any stretch of the imagination an expert. I believe myself to be only at the beginning. I have picked up a baking stone, a paint scraper (the perfect tool for dough) and a sturdy piece of linen over the past year, but that is all that I can claim for tools on my bread baking expeditions.
More than a resolution, I have found love. I have found comfort in the rhythm of baking. I have lived by the rising and falling of bubbly dough. Cookbooks have become my bibles. Tasting, tearing, dipping, and smearing… these actions spell out my days. Bread has given me something to focus on. To count on.
The unpredictability of a new move, knowing not a soul for miles and miles, the solitude of a home nestled in the swamp lands of an isolated area, the chaos and sometimes exasperation of mothering two small boys; these things can add up to a lonesome life. I promise you.
But somehow this whole bread thing sparked something inside me.
A resolution can bring on hope. It doesn’t have to tell you no. It doesn’t have to dictate your every mouthful, or every word. All I did was keep at it, and I found myself a new woman. This may sound humourous, it does to me! Bread cannot change a person. But it did.
It connected me to the past. Women and men through out all of history made these very loaves. They cultured yeasts and experimented with temperatures. They shared meals, and delivered loaves to neighbors.
It gave me satisfaction that I was doing something that very well could affect my family for good. Never again will sunbeam feel like the epitome of perfection in the world of bread to that giant of a man who I share a name with. Yes, he may still prefer this for a bologna sandwich here and there, but I know in my heart of hearts the crusty exterior, the chewy interior and oh the fresh-baked smell that fills our house has won him over.
My boys. My boys expect the best. My youngest first word, shortly after the obligatory mama and dada was of course, “bread”. I watch them in their tiny kitchen kneading smooshing, sharing, and enjoying that very thing their mama spends time on. Bread.
It is contagious. It is habitual. It is the bread of life. My bread of life.
I don’t know what the future holds for this years resolution for me, but do yourself a favor; make one this year. And make it good. Point your life in a direction of joy. Fall in love. Make it tangible.
Artos (A Celebration Bread)
1 cup barm (a starter)
3.5 cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
1.5 tsp. yeast
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp cloves
1 tsp minced orange and lemon zest
1 tsp almond extract
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 cup of whole milk
Stir together dry ingredients. Mix in the wet. Knead for ten long minutes until it passes the window pane test. (You will be able to stretch a piece until you can see through it but it does not tear) Place in an oiled bowl to proof until doubled.
Split into one large chunk and form a boule (a very tight ball) and let rise until doubled. The smaller piece should be placed in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic. Preheat the oven to 350.
Roll out your small piece forming the shapes in the pictures below. Place in the oven onto your stone or a sheet tray will do fine. When it registers 190 or if your brave, it sounds hollow it is done. About 40 minutes.
As soon as it comes out glaze with a heated up mixture of 2 tbsp of the following, honey sugar and water, and 1 tsp of orange extract. Sprinkle on sesame seeds if desired.