Bread baking is good for the soul.

Bread
What is it about getting your hands and counters (and all other surfaces) covered with flour that is so rewarding?  This weekend I made my grandma’s Italian Bread recipe and it was good for my soul.  Although it is a simple recipe with minimal ingredients, it is a timely task.  I had a few free hours on Sunday and decided to crack open the bread section in my grandma’s cookbook and knead out some stress.

Cup after cup of flour went into the whirring mixer and a beautiful dough emerged, ready to knead. This bread has to be kneaded four times with a resting period in between each.  My grandma always laid out spoons on her counter to keep track of which kneading she was completing.  Something so simple–yet so needed!  I would have been lost without the spoons.

I popped the loaves in the oven and waited impatiently while the heavenly scent filled my house.

What I love about this recipe is that it makes four loaves of bread–plenty to share!  After the bread came out of the oven, my husband and I delivered two warm loaves to our parents and took two loaves to our small group dinner.

Why is that the most basic of ingredients can brighten someone’s day? Growing up my grandma made bread all of the time.  We loved getting the phone call that she had fresh bread waiting on her counter for us to come and get.  We cherished each slice and anticipated the next loaf from her oven.

Even though bread making isn’t a dump and bake type recipe, I’m hoping to make it more often and share it with those around me.

Is there a recipe that you love to make and share with others?

Italian Bread

Makes 4 loaves

Ingredients:

8 cups flour (sometimes I mix whole wheat and white, like I did in the picture)

1 T. salt

3 T. sugar

3 T. cooking oil (I used vegetable)

2 pkg. dry yeast dissolved in 3 cups warm water

Method:

Mix salt, sugar and oil into yeast-water mixture.  Start beating in flour until all 8 cups are used.  Cover.  Let rise 4 times, for 10 minutes each time.  Punch down and knead each time.  Once 40 minutes has passed and you have punched and kneaded every 10 minutes, divide the dough into 4 equal portions.  Roll each portion with a rolling pin and roll up jelly-roll fashion.  Place loaves on a greased cookie sheet, brush tops with oil, and cut diagonal lines on the top.  Let rise for 1 hour.  Bake at 350° for 30 minutes.  This is optional, but I do brush the loaves with melted butter once they are done baking to keep them soft!

Here are the tools I love for baking this type of bread:

USA Sheet Pan  

The USA Sheet pans are made in the USA (obviously) and are the best!  They are affordable and durable and very non-stick.  The owners are amazing people, too.

Bench Scraper

I’m not sure how you roll out anything in flour without a bench scraper.  These make clean up SO easy.

French Rolling Pin

I’m partial to french rolling pins.  I like that they have no handles and that you can put as much pressure on the dough as you see fit.  Much easier to manage, in my opinion.

Kitchen Aid Mixer

I think this goes without say.  🙂

 

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First Birthday Party Planning

birthday party 3
Everly almost 1.
I can’t believe I am already starting to think about my baby’s first birthday!  Whew, time flies.  I might still have a month and a half to finish birthday party plans, but it seems that I am behind according to most of my friends, family and online resources.

Whenever I am in party planning mode, I think about my grandma. In her hay day, my grandma was the master party planner.  In fact she still has the notebook documenting all of the parties she planned.  This well-loved book is stuffed full of  lists upon lists with neat little check marks noting completion of each to-do entry.  I can remember some of those lists from the major holiday dinners she hosted at her house each year.  She planned out each and every minute of the days leading up to the event.  I laughed at the the fact that she would write 10:53AM, turn on oven.  10:57AM, put ham in oven.  She was so precise and so intentional about every minute of her preparation that during the party she was able to be present and enjoy everyone’s company and what was happening around her.

But the best part of my grandma’s planning was that she was not fussy about the overall state of her home.  She definitely followed a strict cleaning schedule each week, and her floors were immaculate, but she didn’t get upset if something was too out of order.  When I spent my spring breaks with my dearest cousin with my grandparents at their Florida condo, she was always insistent on celebrating our birthdays with a party with their friends.  She would invite them over for cake and coffee and we would always be talked into showing off our recent shopping trip purchases.  In the 15 minutes before everyone arrived, my grandma shuffled around the condo fluffing a few pillows and happened to notice a few miscellaneous papers and items on the counter top.  She looked at my cousin and me and said, “Girls, watch how to pick up quickly.”  She scooped up all of the items and shoved them in the washing machine.  I loved her stress-free attitude about life’s daily clutter.

birthday party 2
Grandma’s decluttering
Birthday Party 1
A birthday celebration in Florida with my grandma in the background.

As I plan out my daughter’s party, I see myself looking back to my grandma’s expertise. I hope to be organized enough that I can watch my baby light up when she sees her first candle on her first cake and watch those who love her light up when they see her smash her little hands into the icing.  But, I hope to be relaxed enough to not worry about small details and willingly shove them in the washing machine out of sight.

As a Christian, aren’t we called to open our homes and tables and fellowship with others? I want to presently participate in those times of deep conversation and joy.  I don’t want to miss those life-changing moments by worrying about the perfect linens or centerpieces or that there are toys all over my floor.

Will you join me in shoving life’s distractions and clutter in the washing machine?
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