There are few things that beat the aroma of freshly baked bread. (Except maybe chocolate chip cookies.) Growing up, I remember driving past the Merita Bread Bakery off the I-4, rolling down the windows and breathing in a whiff of heaven. It sure beat the heck out of other things I’ve lived near. Namely citrus plants. LAX. A paper mill. And a Budweiser brewery. Bread factory wins hands down.
I love baking bread. In my head, I have this peaceful image of effortlessly kneading out dough first thing in the morning, my kitchen lit by Rembrandt or Caravaggio, my mind focused and clear of any thoughts other than the work at hand. Of course it never works out quite so zen, especially with a toddler underfoot. But there’s still something so comforting in the process of mix, knead, 1st rise, 2nd rise and bake. And in the fact that, over hundreds of years, it really hasn’t changed. Sure, our tools are a little fancier (although I’m fairly sure my thrifty Czech great-grandmother would simply shake her head at the shiny Kitchenaid mixer) but we still follow the same steps. Just like our grandmothers and their grandmothers and their grandmothers. Five steps. Hundreds of years. The same delicious result.
As proof, after baking this bread and reading Goodnight Moon five times in a row, I settled down with a glass of wine and my husband for this week’s installment of Downton Abbey. Cut to an exchange with Mrs. Patmore in the kitchen. Well, I have no idea what happened in the scene because I was too busy staring at the beautiful loaf of bread arranged on her cutting board. Which looked exactly like the ones I’d made! My husband even paused the DVR and made the same comment. So it’s good to know that whatever dire dilemmas the Crawleys and staff are facing, at least they’re eating well.