Baking Bread

By Linda Porter Carlyle

Joseph Anderson Donetti looked at G.M. “We’re going to what?” he asked.

G.M. looked back at Joseph. “We’re going to bake bread,” she repeated. “Now go and wash your hands.”

“Do you know how to make bread?” Joseph asked. He hurried across the room as G.M. swatted at him with a dishtowel.

“Of course I know how to make bread!” she retorted with a smile.

When Joseph returned to the kitchen, he saw that G.M. had put on her big blue-and-white striped apron. She looked like a real cook. “What’s this?” he asked, shaking a jar with tiny, beige, roundish balls in it.

“That’s the yeast,” G.M. said. “It’s what makes the bread rise. Please put one cup of water in the big measuring cup for me.”

Joseph carefully measured one cup of water.

“Heat it in the microwave for a minute and a half,” G.M. said.

Joseph put the measuring cup in the microwave and set the timer for 90 seconds.

“Put a teaspoonful of sugar in the water, and stir it up,” G.M. said over her shoulder. She was busy pulling storage containers out of the pantry.

Joseph followed G.M.’s directions.

“Now put two tablespoons of yeast in the water,” G.M. said.

Joseph did.

“In a few minutes, the sugar will help the yeast start to grow,” G.M. said. “It’s fun to watch. The yeast will get all bubbly. Then we’ll know it’s alive, and it will make the bread dough puff up and not just sit there and bake hard and solid like a brick. Now we need to get the flour and other stuff ready to mix in,” she added. “Get me a sort-of-big bowl, please.”

Joseph put G.M.’s second-biggest bowl on the counter.

“OK,” G.M. said, “first we’ll start with whole-wheat flour. Put about three cups of it in the bowl.”

“Do you have a recipe?” Joseph asked curiously.

“Of course I do,” G.M. said. “It’s in my head. Put some cornmeal in with the flour.”

“How much?” Joseph asked.

“Oh, a cup or so,” G.M. said.

Joseph frowned. “Exactly a cup?” he asked.

G.M. put her hands on her hips. “Bread making is not a science,” she said. “It’s an art! That means it doesn’t have to be exact.”

Joseph grinned. “Now I know why you’re making bread,” he said. “It’s art—not cooking!”

G.M. grinned back. “Get out the oat-meal,” she said.

Soon the dry ingredients were ready. Whole-wheat flour, cornmeal, oatmeal, and salt.

“Oh, wow!” Joseph exclaimed, looking at the measuring cup that held the water and yeast. “It really is growing! That’s so cool!”

G.M. put about four cups of warm water into her biggest bowl. She let Joseph pour in some molasses and then add the yeast mixture to it. She showed him how to gradually add more and more flour and stir the dough until it was absolutely impossible to stir it any more. Then she dumped the dough onto the counter and taught him how to knead it.

“We’re going to take a loaf of our bread over to the Thomases,” she told Joseph as she began to grease the bread pans. “Mr. Thomas was laid off his job three months ago. I saw Mrs. Thomas yesterday while I was out walking. She told me about how God has been supplying their needs. Several times she has come home and found bags of groceries at their side door. She has found money in the mailbox. Somebody mailed them coupons for free pizza.” G.M. laughed. “Mrs. Thomas said God even provided for her favorite dessert. Someone gave her a huge bag of chocolate chips, so she can still make chocolate chip cookies!”

Joseph rolled and punched the bread dough. “Hey!” he exclaimed. “My Sabbath School lesson is about bread too! It’s about how God made sure that widow lady always had enough flour to make bread for herself, and her son, and for Elijah. But the story doesn’t say anything about corn-meal, or oatmeal, or molasses.”

“People all over the world make bread,” G.M. said. “They use what they have. Some kinds of bread have lots and lots of ingredients. But bread can be very simple too. Like tortillas are a kind of bread, and you make them with just flour and water. Or cornmeal and water.”

“Maybe it was tortillas the widow made,” Joseph said. “It’s nice to know that God cares about what happens to people,” he added.

“It sure is,” G.M. agreed. “That’s what makes us Christians the happiest people on earth. We know that even when we have troubles, God is caring for us. Like Mrs. Thomas. They don’t have much money to go around right now, but I’ve never heard her complain. She only praises God.”

G.M. poked a finger into the dough. It was soft and springy. “It’s going to be good bread,” she said.

“Can we try making simple bread sometime?” Joseph asked. “Elijah bread?”*

“Sure,” G.M. said with a grin. “As long as I don’t have to gather sticks outside the village and build a fire to bake it on.”

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