Our house is filled with the smell of freshly-baked bread; I’ve just taken two whole wheat loaves from the oven. Yesterday I baked some challah and will bake more of that tomorrow.
After a lapse of many years, I began baking bread again sometime after Christmas and have produced nearly all the bread we’ve eaten since. It wasn't a total lapse, I’ve continued to bake special breads for holidays, but in terms of baking everyday bread, I can’t remember how long it’s been since I’ve done that on a regular basis.
Aside from the aroma, which is almost sufficient reason alone to bake bread, and of course, the pleasure of eating it, I love the process. Most of all, I enjoy kneading the dough before the first rising; bringing about the transformation of a bowlful of raw dough into a smooth, elastic mass.
What is it about the quality of the time spent kneading? It’s so simple, requires no conscious thought, the mind can wander. But, and this is the important thing I think, my mind doesn’t wander. I get mesmerized by the tactile experience, the patterns of the folding and turning, the rhythm of my hands. I suppose it’s something like a meditation.Recently, I've been experimenting with a recipe for a no-knead bread that results in the closest I've ever gotten to making a French boule. It's delicious, though a little hard to cut; the crust is crisp but the interior of the bread doesn't offer enough resistance and sort of squishes down under the pressure of the knife. And I'm concerned about the necessity of preheating the pot you bake the bread in. The only pot I own that's big enough to contain this large loaf, is enamel, and I think you're not supposed to heat such pots while empty.
Eventually, I suppose I'll buy myself a pot for this purpose, the bread is so good. But in the meantime, I need to adjust to the concept of not kneading, of leaving out my favorite part of bread making. It's a yeasty paradox; I love the end result, but miss the meditation.