Thoughts on Baking Bread

As the fall moves in and leaves change their colors, trading the dark green of late summer for the orange, red, and gold of Autumn, I begin to bake bread.

I begin to break bread when twilight comes quickly and a chill is ever-present in the air. I begin to break bread when the dark of winter is not yet upon us and the glow of Autumn shines through orange candles.

Making bread is often better therapy than a counseling session.

I think about baking bread on my way home from work as I watch the sun setting too early and feel the crisp air that will soon usher in winter.

I think about setting the oven at 350 degrees as I start the yeast rising. I think about the ingredients: wheat flour, white flour, oats, yeast, oil, sugar, salt. So simple–yet yielding so much.

I mix up the oats, sugar, salt, whole wheat flour, and oil. I add boiling hot water.

I wait and then add yeast and the rest of the flour.

And then I take the slightly sticky dough and I knead. I knead and I pray.

I start global and I go local. I pray for Egypt and Pakistan, for peace, for mercy. I pray for the chasm of misunderstanding between East and West. I pray for Syria, that a miracle will happen. I pray for my family, that my children will know the joy of baking bread, of creating, of loving, of forgiveness and forgiving. I pray for my parents – thank God for them and what they have passed to me.

And then I pray that I will forgive more and judge less, that I will find my strength and security in the One who is the bread of life,

I pound harder on the bread when I’m upset, when I feel hurt or anger rise to my eyes and heart. I concentrate deeply as I think about life in all its hard and all its good.  And as I do the bread becomes smoother under my hands.

This time in the kitchen, baking bread? It is holy time, holy work.

I set the bread to rise and I thank God for bread and for life.


An Uncommon Birthday Cake

As I have read about blogging I have found out two (oops, three!) things:

  1. Successful bloggers seem to all be cooks
  2. Successful bloggers seem to all be photographers
  3. Successful bloggers call their husbands names like Marlboro Man or other clever titles

This is depressing information. I cook but I will never be on the food network. I make what I like to think of as wholesome and friendly meals. We never have boiled vegetables and I believe that, except for rare occasions, it should not take you longer to fix the meal then it takes your family to eat the meal. To that end I have become adept at chopping and sautéing onions and garlic quickly and using things like rice cookers and Trader Joe’s.

As for photography –  if I am the only one in my entire family around to take a picture of any of them, they will turn to a total stranger rather than have me ruin the photo. There’s something about framing the shot, keeping my hands still….I don’t know what it is. I can’t do it.

There is something I do extremely well. I make an uncommonly good carrot cake at least once a year for my husband’s birthday. When he was little, and his mom had her hands full with 4 little boys by the time she was 21, she told all of them to “Pick your cake and stick with it”. From then on, each of them knew that every year that favorite cake would be made on their birthday. My husband picked carrot cake. There is no other cake that even comes close.

My husband’s birthday was on Tuesday and after rushing home from work, sure that I had all the ingredients that would go into this 9″ by 11″ pan of goodness, I began the process. By 5pm the house smelled like a mixture of cinnamon and sweetness as it baked in the oven.

So here goes – all you’ll ever get from me are just a few recipes from Pakistan, the Middle East and Carrot Cake. But I promise, this one is worth every minute and muscle you spend in making it!

Coconut, Pineapple, Carrot Cake 

  • 1/2 bag of those little carrots
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup light brown sugar (packed)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup coconut
  • 1 cup crushed pineapple
  • 3/4 cup walnuts
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Right at the beginning slice the little carrots into pieces. Put in saucepan and add a bit of water. Cook until semi soft. Put in food processor or equivalent and add some of the pineapple juice. Blend and set aside. Beat up those eggs! When they are whipped to a frenzy add in the light brown sugar. Beat that up until it is smooth and perfect looking. Then add the white sugar and do the same thing. Add the oil and beat until blended. Add in cinnamon, vanilla, baking powder and soda. Add 2 cups of flour and blend till smooth. Then add mashed carrots, coconut, pineapple and walnuts. Mixture will be dense. Put into greased 9″ by 11″ pan and bake for about 40 to 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool and then frost with your favorite cream cheese icing (not store-bought) I mix cream cheese, butter, icing sugar and vanilla and it’s great.

So this is my uncommon birthday cake and my consciously, subconscious attempt at competing with the big guys in the blogosphere!