Saturday, August 4, 2012

Our Daily Bread

How many times have you said this: "Give us this day our daily bread?"  How many times have you pondered this prayer?  In our times of plenty, when a loaf of some substance called 'bread' is the least part of our grocery bill, it seems like a platitude at best.

Hearken back a couple thousand years, before modern milling, refining and grocery store variety.  Bread was really something, for some it was everything.  Coarse meal from whatever was available, probably fermented to soften to grits and grow yeast. It may not have met the 'food pyramid' guidance, but it would keep you from starvation. Where there was life, there was hope.

I started seriously baking our own bread about 5 years ago when the cost of a loaf of 'good' bread approached $5. I bought a bread machine (which paid for itself) to do much of the work because I was working and battling chronic illness, so could not afford the personal energy to do it all.  Soon after, I discovered that I could buy more than 10 pounds of grain for the cost of a (shrinking) package of King Arthur flour -- which around here was often quickly rancid because it stayed so long on the grocer's shelf.  I bought the Back to Basic hand grain mill (good exercise) and started making bread almost from scratch.

Dear Husband (DH) was taking his 'lunch' to work -- a Clif Bar and a bagel from the nearby bagel joint.  Somewhere in the flour price run-up, the bagel joint closed and we developed 'breakfast bread'. 

What has fascinated me during the process is the simplicity and flexibility of bread.  I've made it 'flourless' by soaking and then mashing wheat berries; added rye, oat and buckwheat berries to the grind; substituted almond and coconut flour for part of the wheat flour (adding a couple T of vital wheat gluten to keep the loaf together); used mashed banana, apple and butternut squash (cooked) for part of the liquid and many other weird changes to the basic recipe. I also learned how to adapt the generic recipe to 5000' and 8% humidity. Few of these 'experiments' resulted in a bad loaf. Some may not have been repeated because the effort resulted in no noticeable change to the flavor or texture and did not add to the nutrition. A few were like a pan of pebbles and became treats for the Thunder Chicken.

Sure, I still buy tortillas and an occasional loaf of store bread, but about 85% of our bread product is made at home. It tastes good, probably better because I know what's in it and that it is capable of sustaining life.

'Give us this day our daily bread' has a lot of meaning. It is both about the physical nourishing substance and the spiritual nourishing substance -- the metaphysical transubstantiation of nourishment into the potential for enlightenment and wisdom.  Pondering the physical bread can lead to the same for our intellectual and spiritual bread. I choose not to stay in the Wonder Bread aisle for that, either. 

How about you?

1 comment:

  1. Cripes, and I was all so proud of my self for posting that Soda Bread recipe I tried... (come to think of it, I gotta make that again...