Therapy

Have you ever noticed a scent coming back to you hours or days after you inhaled it, as fresh and as potent as it was? And have you noticed that memories associated with that scent come rushing back as well? And that the same thing happens with objects you may see? Or sounds you may hear? A train whistle fading as it passes, a siren rushing to an emergency? Wind chimes warning of an approaching storm?

My head has been swarming with thoughts and memories, dredged up by sensory overload. I could drown out the noise by focusing on yet another volume of fictional angst and fury that dwarfs my own, as I have been doing the past month, but today I yearn only to bake bread.

There’s something wholly satisfying about proofing yeast, the stringent, heady vapors it produces, blending ingredients, small batches at a time until they form a dough that can be twisted, pounded, and kneaded into a satiny mass, rolled into a greased bowl and left to rise, only to be worked again. And when the dough is ready to bake—having been dressed with beaten egg or butter, its aroma rises from the oven, saturating the air, replacing all the other offending scents and sights and sounds with the knowledge that nourishment and pleasure are in the future, along with the joy of that first warm bite, slathered with honey or butter or nothing.

How sweet to look at that glistening, golden braid, or round, or loaf, and say, I made that. How thoroughly soothing; how incomparably delicious.

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8 thoughts on “Therapy

  1. It’s a weird scent that rushes back to me – smoking products – pipe tobaccos, cigarettes, marijuana, cigars. Each is a delicate transport, shifting me to another life zone.

    I wish it was bread, pie, or cookies, but no; smoke.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I used to bake wholemeal sourdough loafs with coriander and molasses every other day. It smelled and tasted delicious, family and friends loved it. Freshly baked bread is evoked as I read here.
    Having given up gluten a few years back, I’ve not found a satisfactory replacement for wheat. I miss the real thing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So do I, Ashen, as I’m gluten free, too, and have been for 25 years. There is truly no substitute for wheat and rye in bread baking (and especially in making puff pastry—which is where I REALLY miss it!), but it is possible to create tasty and satisfactorily textured breads with the right combination of flours and the addition of gums that perform the function of gluten. Years ago I brought a round of gluten free challah I’d baked to a friend’s Rosh Hashanah dinner. She served it alongside a challah she’d bought from a wonderful local bakery, but didn’t tell any of the guests which bread was wheat and which was gluten free. Everyone sampled both, and wound up devouring the bread I’d made, rather than the wheat based bread, which surprised both of us. Someday I’ll share the recipe. In the meantime, quick breads and muffins can be a delicious substitute!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, Barbara, if only you knew (I love your piece, by the way)! I have always wanted to bake bread and thought I’d learn how to around last Christmas. Well, I’ve tried almost every weekend so far and have thrown much good flour away :’–( Either it has an overpowering taste of yeast, or it doesn’t prove, or it comes out so hard you could concuss someone with it! I don’t know where I’m going wrong. I’ve tried plain flour, strong flour, with honey, without honey (I’d rather not use sugar – generations of Italians have made sugar-free bread), powdered yeast, fresh yeast, in a Dutch oven, on a tray… How hard can it be to make bread?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind comment! My early attempts were utter failures, Katia, so take heart! Successful bread making relies on a kind of alchemy: the right conditions as well as the right ingredients, along with a recipe that will guide you through the process, step by step. For example, a good recipe will not only list the amount of flour, but also tell you to add only half on the first mixing, and then add 1/4-1/3 cup at a time, just until the dough reaches a point where it can be handled and kneaded. That might require the rest of the flour you’ve set aside, or less (often, less, from my experience). Also, the freshness, amount and type of yeast is important (I usually use a premeasured quick rise, which comes in a packet, rather than jar), and giving it enough sugar and a tiny bit of cider vinegar when it’s added to the liquid. Speaking of, the temperature of that liquid is crucial. Too hot and it will kill the yeast; not warm enough and the yeast won’t activate (yeast can be so dramatic!). Knowing how to judge when each step has worked the way it’s supposed to comes with experience. Perhaps, if you haven’t found a recipe that can do this, a friend can guide you through the process? After that, you will know exactly what to do!! Sending wishes for a kitchen filled with fragrant loaves!

      Liked by 2 people

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