*knead the bread*

Monday, October 5, 2009

-Smeared with butter this bread will help cure whatever is pissing you the hell off.-

Sometimes, I need to just pause from the everything I'm doing. At the moment my schedule is work from 7-3:30, class from 4:30-6:30 (or 10 on Wednesdays), get home and do homework. During the time after homework I try to also eat, blog, run errands, do chores, and try to balance in a social and love life so people don't think I died by finally hanging myself outside the CSUS library where I spend most of my weekends doing research.

Still, and by sweet zombie Jesus there is a still, I find a moment to actually get some work done in the kitchen. Work isn't necessarily the right word. I don't see cooking as work. It's play. A chance to be creative. To blow off steam.

I find bread to be one of the more productive ways to let off steam and frustration. Few other tasks encourage you to smack the snot out of something with your ring hand and work out your frustration because those damn kids across the alley have no concept of noise pollution. (Oh shit, I think I'm old now!) Yes, kneading bread is a fabulous way to just get it all out.

The whole act of aggressive pulling, pushing, and shaping acts like an edible stressing stone. The warm ball of whole wheat and buckwheat has magic in it. Wet dough sticking to your fingers sucking out all the frustrations. Yeast has therapeutic properties, not only does it convert sugar into gas, it converts negative energy into sweet smelling goodness. As every muscle in your fingers contract and release, pushing energy in and out of the dough, it absorbs the frustration and imbues you with a kind of serenity only good bread can bestow.

This last Saturday, a day that had been plagued by reading on cognitive linguistic patterns, or something like that, I was filled with angst. It swirled inside me colliding, the friction of frustration and anger generating storms and dark clouds could be seen in my eyes. It was during this that I needed to knead bread, the same way a Buddhist will meditate for inner stillness. For me, it was noms rather than ohms.

"Ugh, God, you must be vengeful if I'm still fucking alive after this week."

*knead the bread*

"I'm tired! God damn assignment making me read over 280 pages in one weekend!"

*knead the bread*

"I just want to stop. Why the hell did I take this on!? Why did I want to go back to school!? I'm burnt out already. My personal graduation deadline is coming up fast!"

*knead the bread*

"Work is driving me crazy! Why won't people leave me alone so I can get shit done for once?"

*knead the bread*

"At least I can start teaching college writing soon. Assuming there are actually jobs out there when I graduate."

*knead the bread*

"Oh crap, I have an article due for Edible Sacramento soon. I need to budget time for that somehow. Crud. Okay, deep breath."

*knead the bread*

"I think I can squeeze it in in early November? Ah well, I'm sure I'll find something great to work on."

*knead the bread*

*looks out the window*

*knead the bread*

"God, it's nice outside. I think I'll open the window."

*knead the bread*

"Mace, damn it, go away. I'm not letting you eat another yeast packet. You fart up a storm when you steal those."

*knead the bread*

"Oh hells yes, this smells good. Hmm, I wonder if I should contact that person I met at BlogHer, I bet she would be a great wealth of information for my thesis."

*knead the bread*

"I think I'll add some more dried cranberries to this. Damn, this'll be good. If baking bread was a sin, Dante would have dedicated a chapter to me."

And then I set the bread in a warm place so the little bits of yeast who have escaped Eat Beast can nourish themselves. As the bread rises, so do my spirits. All is once again good with world.

-When life gives you cranberries you make cranberry studded bread sweetened by molasses. Then thank life for giving you cranberries because that was really awesome of it to do.-

Whole Wheat Molasses Bread with Cranberries
Adapted from Gourmet

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading
2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons of buckwheat flour (optional)
2 teaspoons salt
1 (1/4-oz) package fast-acting yeast such as Fleischmann's Rapid Rise yeast
1 cup warm water
1/2 cup warm milk
1/4 cup molasses (not robust or blackstrap)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries

1. Whisk together flours, salt, and yeast in a bowl. Whisk together water, milk, molasses, and butter in another bowl until combined well, then stir into flour mixture until a wet dough forms. Stir in cranberries. You may need to add a sprinkle or two of water if the dough is initially crumbly.

2. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead, working in just enough additional flour to prevent dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, 7 to 10 minutes. Form dough into a ball and put in an oiled bowl, turning to coat, then let rest in bowl, uncovered, in a draft-free place at warm room temperature 10 minutes.

3. Divide dough in half and form into 2 balls. Arrange about 4 inches apart on a large baking sheet. Loosely cover with oiled plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled, about 1 hour.

4. Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in lowest position. Lightly sprinkle dough with some flour and bake until golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when tapped, 20 to 25 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool.

-Ruby nuggets of tarty goodness.-


  1. Such an awesome. It does help to make your own bread. It's therapeutic and relaxing. It's actually amazing how you find the time to do some work in the kitchen, work and study at the same time. There's always a way to make it happen when you love what you do.

  2. omg i have all these things at home I CAN MAKE THIS and i really *kneed* it this week. thanks big G.

  3. Love how you work life out as you kneed the bread! I enjoy reading how you process and relax while cooking. Kneading bread isn't high on my priority list so I take the easy way to enjoy fresh bread. My process time is sitting looking at nothing and enjoying the morning sun with a cup of tea and my journal. Thanks for sharing.. your life and your recipes!

  4. This sounds like a much healthier catharsis than making and eating about a cup of caramel sauce. not that i did that last night.

  5. That looks really yum, Garrett! Thanks for sharing the recipe. I hope your week is going better!

  6. Hi Garrett, I just stumbled on your blog and after reading this post, I'm a fan of your writing. Agree with you about the therapeutic effects of kneading bread and you've captured the thought processes perfectly.

  7. I think I need to punch some bread as well. All this waking up early and falling asleep before anyone my age has any right to is killing me.

    I've also never punched bread. This looks like a joy I need to take part in...

  8. Wow! The bread looks reeeaaallly good! You should have brought some to class. Or better yet, you should have brought the dough so we could kneed it during class. Looks like you need a vacation, though. Don't work too hard!

  9. Well, you got *me* convinced! I gotta make bread soon! (But, I'm not chasing any deadlines or stressed out- I just like the euphoria, heh.) Love the molasses-y flavor, so much that think I'll actually use robust!

  10. i really enjoyed this post, nice verbal echoes of physical action.

  11. I foresee a bread making day in the near future? I want that yeasty smell in my kitchen, but I've never attempted it!

    Also, read My Life in France (Julia Child) while I was in Mexico and this reminds me of the chapters where she discusses the trials and tribulations of developing a French Bread recipe that could easily be made in the American kitchen (asbestos tile, what!?). Fascinating book - you would heart it.

  12. "this bread will help cure whatever is pissing you the hell off"

    hahahahaha! that had me falling out of my chair. seriously, baking and cooking is my way to unwind. my family knows to leave me the hell alone after a bad day if i'm tromping around the kitchen.
    after about an hour? voila, a beautiful meal has been created, and mom is happy.
    the end.

    ps - that bread sounds lovely. will try that on my next bad day. :)


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