One of the most popular posts on my first blog was how I messed up four batches of cinnamon rolls in one week. No matter how hard I tried to make them, they came out … well … hard. Ha.
Thankfully, complete and total failure didn’t turned me off baking altogether – I just dusted the flour from my hands and moved on to something else instead. Happily, I discovered that I can bake other breads just fine. Like bread, and pizza dough, and tortillas, and buns.
In fact, I’m grateful for the cinnamon roll misadventure because I learned a lot about baking from it. As an example: it took me two failures to realize that the water I add to the yeast with isn’t hot enough, and it took me three flopped batches to realize that my house is too cool and drafty for dough to rise – now I preheat the oven a teeny bit and then let the dough rise in there. Those are tricks that help me immensely when I’m baking bread today.
For the longest time (this is embarrassing) I didn’t realize that bread could be made at home, from scratch. It never occurred to me. Until my mid-twenties, I just kind of assumed that to make bread, you needed a factory of some sort. Yes, I know that pioneer women were capable of making bread, but I didn’t spend a whole lot of time in my twenties thinking about the olden days.
It wasn’t just bread, either. I assumed that muffins and cookies needed a mix. I have very fond memories of making muffins-from-a-box with my mother when I was little. I remember cutting the white envelope open and the overpowering sweet smell of the muffin powder. My mom would let me stir all the ingredients together (water, oil and an egg) and then we would peel off the lid of the blueberry tin and gently, gently rinse the berries. Next, my mom would fold in the blueberries herself so they wouldn’t get smooshed. I was in awe of what I assumed were nature’s most delicate berries.
I really loved those muffins. I’m still trying to find a recipe that replicates them, but with real, actual ingredients. I’m not sure when I moved from mixes to real foods. It happened slowly over time. I didn’t even realize that I had changed until I was chatting with a friend on the phone – about waffles, of all things. Both of our kids love waffles and we both love how easy they are to make. “And really”, I said, “it’s just a little white flour, a little whole wheat flour, an egg, a bit of milk – they aren’t even that unhealthy until you add the syrup.” There was a pause on the phone. “Um”, she laughed, “I just get mine from the box in the freezer.”
That’s when I realized that I’d turned into one of those moms that makes everything from scratch. Cool. And I don’t even need a factory to do it.
Now we do it all – bread, buns, tortillas, even pizza dough. And every time I make something, I’m ridiculously pleased with myself. Because I made something delicious. Because I made something wholesome. Because I made something and saved the family money. Seriously, I’m as proud of myself as a four year old holding a glitter-covered macaroni masterpiece.
I hope my pride is obvious to my kids. I didn’t have a lot of respect for homemakers when I was younger. I guess I thought homemaking was fine for other people, but me? I was going to have a good job and be respected and successful. Now, here I am: a stay-at-home-mom. And I’m learning that there is a quiet dignity that goes with this gig, one that I never saw before. I haven’t mastered all the skills yet, but I started from scratch and I’m getting better as I go.
I hope that when my kids are older, they have fond memories of baking with me, just like I have of baking with my mother. I hope that the smell of fresh bread will always remind them of home. And that they’ll be proud that I was their mother.