Children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb, a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one's youth. Blessed are they whose quivers are full. They will never be shamed contending with foes at the gate. ~Psalm 127:3-5

Friday, September 26, 2008

My Bread Machine

Last Christmas my parents gave each of their 7 children an appliance. How excited I was to receive a bread maker! My husband was a little less than thrilled. After all, what was the point of such a gift and more importantly, where were we going to put it? It is a pretty big appliance and unless you have gobs of counter space there really is no room for such a monstrosity if you don't want it to be an eyesore, commanding not only your visual attention but much of the space on the counter top as well. Also.. homemade bread? He was accustomed to the uniform slices of the long loaves of bread you get at the grocery store. How was this "new" squatty uncut kind of bread going to taste? How would we make sandwiches with it? I stifled my mirth at my husbands adorably naive questions and happily loaded the bread maker into the car. I figured he'd "cross over" with the first bite of the first loaf.

Me and bread making....we don't really get along... unless of course I use my bread maker. I never really made bread successfully before and always bought the loaf of Italian bread at the grocery store bakery or tube of dinner rolls you can get in the refrigerator section. I was determined to use my bread maker a lot. Not only was I excited about freshly-made bread and all the wonderful smells and warmth it would fill my kitchen with but I was also excited about knowing exactly what was in my bread. No high fructose corn syrup here. No artificial flavoring or coloring or anything I can't pronounce. Just good old fashioned flour, yeast and liquid (as well as a few spices) happily mixing together, rising, kneading and baking all on its own.

The first time my husband had the bread, he was a little hesitant. Could this possibly be as good- or better- than the store-bought kind? Amazingly, he admitted to liking it quite well. Needless to say, that winter I used my bread maker a lot. I loved being able to just throw the ingredients into the pan, set the machine according to the size, type and color loaf I needed and just forget about it for a few hours. Shortly after the machine clicked over to the "bake" setting, the house would begin to fill with the warm smell of fresh-baked bread. It was such a treat, especially on those chilly days of winter, to enjoy homemade bread with some savory soup from the crock pot for dinner.

But when Spring rolled around, warm bread and thick rich soups were far from our minds. As the weather grew hot, the bread maker took up permanent residency on a back shelf in our pantry. Gone were the days when we would crave the warm bread paired with something equally enticing to fill up our stomachs with delicious comfort and stick to our ribs, satisfying our appetites for hours. We wanted chicken salad and hamburgers on the grill and everything else that was not made in a bread maker (or crock pot for that matter). I'm sure those machines sighed every time I opened the pantry door to get something else out.

I have to admit, I missed my bread maker these past few months. But now that it's Fall and the weather has gotten a little bit chilly, I have used it quite a few times already. My favorite is making Italian Herb bread and pairing it with a big pan of stuffed shells or a hot steaming bowl of potato soup from the crock pot. I am enjoying trying new recipes this year, as last year I only did the basic recipe a few times. I've made pizza dough and fruit nut bread already and am anxious to go beyond the recipes provided by the bread maker's instruction manual.

And as for my hubby- who questioned the very essence of such a gift from my parents, not to mention the likability of its products- he has grown in his knowledge of things other-than- store-bought and has safely made it through the chasm of change, belly stuffed full and content, happily eating homemade bread on the other side.

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