Growing up, bread was Wonder or a loaf of French bread served with spaghetti and all of it was purchased from the grocery store. I didn’t make my own bread until I was an adult and it all started with this recipe. Still my favorite, it is so good!
When my children were young, though I had left my job as a Sales Manager for a local Electric Membership Cooperative, I started them in a Mom’s Day Out program once a week when they were each about a year old. Nothing highly structured but a place for them to practice some social skills and I’ll admit as importantly some time for myself. You know…to get a haircut or get grocery shopping done or even coffee with friends who also brought their kids there. Why I didn’t think of using that time to pamper myself a bit is beyond me but that was never really my style.
I met another young mom when my oldest daughter Emily started MDO. Joyce and I were about the same age, our first children were both girls the same age and both named Emily. She immediately became my bestfriendilicious! Probably not just for those reasons but more because we shared a desire to do some things that our peers might have thought, well, nuts (they were the ones getting pampered..we were nuts!).
We both just loved caring for our young families and that certainly included preparing delicious meals. We shared recipes and meals together with our families. While I might have helped Joyce further some skill at some time (sewing, crosstitch maybe?), I will never forget that she supported me through my first attempt to make home baked bread. Before the notion of bread machines for home cooks were even a glimmer in some engineers eye.
Fast forward a couple of years. Joyce and her husband Brian had a 2nd girl Kate; we had our 2nd girl Lauren and they moved to Binghamton, NY and we eventually lost touch. I still loved Joyce’s bread the best of any I tried and in one of those things that show just how powerful food memories are; I have never once made this bread without thinking about Joyce and the fun we had together with our girls. I have to say though that as much as I love homemade bread, I’ve never ‘needed’ those moments of kneading to bring me solace or a sense of purpose. It was part of the job and I loved the end result so you did what you had to do. Some years later, when bread machines became popular, I was intrigued and I started to check out the possibilities and was sorely disappointed. Nothing about bread in a can delivered that sense of home baked bread. There is an old fashioned bread called Hobo Bread that is baked in a round coffee can and for that purpose that’s fine, but for me, that look just wasn’t going to do it.
Eventually, after much searching and researching, I found what I wanted. A unit that made a normal looking, horizontal loaf in a pan that looked like, if you can believe it…a bread pan. I might have paid a bit more (OK, understatement there) but you know what? I’ve never regretted it. I was just reminded of that bread machine I bought all those many years ago. Because I used it again yesterday! Yes…17 years and still doing as good a job as it did when new. Made before manufacturers decided that making something with longevity of service was not good for their bottom line!
I had just put Abby Dodge’s Peasant Boule bread in the oven and was on a roll of sorts…so I made this the same day. It’s slightly sweet, has a terrific crumb and it’s a great texture for sandwiches. Great toasted or simply warmed and served with some butter. I can still get sage from my garden so I mixed a bit with butter and dressed it up but it’s not necessary; it’s great all on it’s own.
Thanks Joyce…wherever you are! *
* Thinking of Joyce and her family and how our girls were each other’s first best friends made me decide to do a quick Google search and see if I could find anything on her present whereabouts. I’m saddened to find that she passed away 2 years ago…much too soon. So this post is dedicated to my friend Joyce Bingham; we may have lost touch but you have never been forgotten.