By Amy Kirk
A few years ago I stopped buying bread and started making my own.
For starters, homemade bread tastes so much better, but I also liked the idea of knowing exactly what the ingredients were, as well as using honey instead of sugar, old-fashioned oatmeal, wheat germ and unbleached whole wheat and white flour.
When it comes to my family, I'm big on creating nostalgic memories with food that will become my children's comfort foods someday. I wanted to make bread they would grow up remembering fondly. I'm a little weird, I know.
Making homemade bread also means more to me as the main (only) cook in our family. It takes effort and, more importantly, lots of time on my part, but I feel like making my own bread is doing something special that's from my heart for my family.
I used to be a terrible bread baker. But I became determined to master bread making from scratch rather than with a bread machine. I reminded myself that I would be making mistakes and learning until I got better, but got lots of information from our local extension office and friends I considered excellent bread makers. My biggest challenge is usually finding long enough blocks of time to dedicate to the mixing, raising and baking, but it's always worth it.
It may sound kind of silly, but sharing homemade bread at our table also has spiritual meaning for me. I am always reminded of Communion and its deeper meaning when I have homemade bread at our table. Taking Communion is a big part of attending church for me, and our congregation's members oftentimes take turns making the bread that's provided for Communion.
Below is my adapted recipe. The original is from the kitchen of Lutheran Outdoors' Outlaw Ranch church camp in Custer, S.D. The recipe makes three loaves. I usually slice each loaf after they've cooled and freeze two of them for later.
I'm still working on mastering the shaping of the loaves. The appearance of my bread would not earn a high placing at the fair, but that isn't a priority with me. Sharing homemade bread with my family is.
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Amy Kirk writes a humor column and maintains the blog "Amy's Ranch Slants"