Lebanese Food / Wine and Culinary Traditions

Lebanese Food / Wine and Culinary Traditions
Spring time always inspires me...

Friday, February 4, 2011

My 50 kg Bag of Flour

Bread-making is an act of love
A week ago, I went to Crown Flour, one of the biggest distributor of flour in Lebanon. I have been toying with this idea for a long time and finally I have made up my mind. I am going to make bread at home! Bread is an essential part of my family's diet. I think for most of us, it is the quintessential food for school lunches of our children. A thought ran through my head for quite a while, "what is exactly going into this bread that we buy in the supermarket?" God knows. I've decided that I want to know exactly what goes into our bread. I love making bread. It makes me feel great. It's a maternal act—right from the heart. "Good bread needs more than just flour, water and milk. It requires nurture and care." wrote Edward Espe Brown in his famous book The Tassajara Bread Book. He also wrote, " I do not bake to be great. I bake because it is wholesome. I feel renewed, and I am renewing the world, my friends and neighbors. Most of us bake in this way." That is exactly how I feel about baking bread.

When I bought the 50 kg bag of flour, my children declared that their mom is crazy. They joked for half an hour about my excessive way of being. I was a bit sad that they could not understand that this was for their own benefit, as they were demanding fresh bread every day. Kids don't calculate the work or preparations it takes to accomplish such a task. Later, each one went in their rooms to study. My eldest daughter came to me an hour later stating that she liked the fact that I have bought this huge bag. She said it gave her a sense of comfort,  a safety net. She emphasized that it made me even "crazier" because the bag was stored next to me in my tiny office next to the kitchen.

Making bread is an art, but it is very much a passion too. It is not a true science where you mix ingredients and have precise results. It is of putting of one's heart and soul into this dough to make bread—the symbol of life. It is experimenting with yeast, flours, testing one's patience and many other factors.In winter especially, I love baking bread because it warms my kitchen with the temperature of the oven and the smell of homemade bread takes my breath away. It's comforting to know that you can create this type of ambiance in your own home to finally eat the fruit of your labor. Experimenting with different flavors and textures gives you the power to make your own piece of art, like painting. You can do this by adding different herbs to your bread. I add flavored olive oil to the dough to give it the right flavor according to my mood. The bread feels and knows if you are happy or sad... If you don't believe me, try it for yourself. 

I will stop writing now, for I'm going to work on my  olive bread. My father-in-law gave me olives in brine that he picked from his garden. I will take out the core and mix the olives in my dough. I will mix two types of flours to give a robust feel to my bread. I might add a tablespoon of olive oil to accentuate the taste of the olives. I will leave the dough to rest, tucked in carefully in my oven, away from drafts. Hours later, because it's so cold, I will place the dough on a tray to rise again according to the shape that I desire. I'm into a great big ball of bread these days. Once risen, I will cook the bread and enjoy it with my family. I think I will make pumpkin soup tonight too. I'm getting hungry!

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