I sulked for a few days about my failed attempt at making yeast bread. I watched a program on the television called “The Galloping Gourmet.” The chef was making bread. He had a special oven for the dough to rise perfectly each time. I didn’t have an oven like his so I invented one.
I mixed the yeast packets with warm water and made a batch of dough big enough for two loaves of bread. The whole house smelled yummy the minute the yeast packets were opened. I put the dough into my biggest Pyrex bowl. It only filled about one third of the bowl.
We had stand up floor heaters. In those days our grocery store packed our groceries in boxes. I picked the biggest box I had and placed it about a foot in front of the heater. I put my bowl of dough in the box and covered the open side with a damp towel. I waited, without peeking, for the two hours called for in the recipe and slowly pulled away the towel.
My bowl was not just full it was overflowing. I punched down the dough, divided it, and formed two pretty good looking loaves. Once again I placed the dough, in their bread pans, into my little makeshift raising-box. I made my afternoon run to pick up kids from school.
While I was waiting for the kids I started talking to one of the other mothers. I confessed my first attempt at bread and told her I was trying again and at that very moment my loaves were at home raising. She laughed and said, “Don’t you know you can’t make yeast in cold weather or when it’s raining? And I never heard of making a contraption like that for raising the dough but I don’t think it will work.”
I instantly forgot how pretty my loaves had looked when I left home. It was cold, it was raining, and I’d just found out my raising-box might be a silly idea!
When I parked in the garage and opened my car door I could faintly smell yeast. When I opened the door to the house an unbelievably scrumptious fragrance welcomed us. The kids even noticed. We all lined up in front of the box of bread. I pulled up the towel. Cheers and clapping followed. There before us were two beautiful, even, full loaves.
Heidi and Robin took Justin by the hand and walked him to the kitchen. Adam carried one loaf and I carried the other. We put the bread into the oven. Everyone went about their afternoon routine for about thirty minutes.
When their clothes were changed and the animals fed instead of playing outside the kids all came back to the kitchen. Heidi and Robin set the table. Justin pulled his high chair to the table. When I said the time was near for the bread to come out of the oven Adam went to tell Larry dinner was almost ready.
Everyone was remembering the “dough grave” in the field. The whole house smelled heavenly. No one said a word until the oven door was opened. The loaves were the most beautiful perfect loaves of bread I’d ever seen. I took them from their pans and placed them on a wire rack to cool.
Before the bread had cooled, even for a minute, Larry took one. He placed it on the cutting board and cut it into slices. He put a slice on each of our plates and a dollop of butter on each slice. The bread was so hot the butter disappeared almost immediately. It had burned Larry’s fingers while he cut it but it had cooled enough for us to nibble at it.
It was delicious! The first loaf was gone in a matter of minutes. Everyone loved it. We ate a whole loaf of bread, a cube of butter, and half a jar of homemade jam during dinner. It was so good it turned out to be the main course.
The next morning the other loaf was toasted, a slice at a time for breakfasts, until it was completely gone.
I made bread for our family a lot after that. I got so good at it that winter when the following summer came I entered it in the fair competition. I won a blue ribbon. The following summer I added wheat bread to the competition and won two blue ribbons.
The following year I added cinnamon bread and won three blue ribbons at the fair. When I stood in front of the loaves on display they were perfect. There were no air bubbles, no burned crusts, and no waves in the shape of the loaves.
The third year while I was standing there a sweet little lady was standing next to me. She commented on her loaf which was just next to mine. Her loaf had huge air pockets, looked like it had a broken back, and was burned on the edges. She said something about my loaf and pointed to my name saying, “She wins every year, hers is always pretty and mine is always wrong, I’ll never win.”
I was very proud I had won but never entered another loaf in the fair. I always enjoyed making bread. The nights we had it for dinner I never needed to call my family to the table. Everyone knew by the fragrance the bread was cooking.