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BAKING BREAD AT HIGH NOON
June 7, 2005
 
Naturally, one of the hottest and most humid days we've had so far was also the day we found ourselves almost out of bread. If I start early enough, I told myself, it'll all be done by the time it really gets hot. But there was an eMo to write, and yesterday genius did not burn: it just smoldered sullenly, never quite catching fire.

Hot and humid is good bread rising weather; it's just that then you have to bake it in a hot oven and heat up your kitchen. You can't wait until it's cooler, once it's riz (an honest-to-goodness word SpellChek doesn't seem to recognize). If you do, it'll fall and you won't have lovely rounded loaves. You'll have something more like rectangular bricks. Tasty but demoralizing.

And so the loaves went in at high noon. Our old oven is a little cranky, and you have to turn things around in there during the course of the cooking time, so I was stuck in the hot kitchen with the bread while it baked.

This is an old house. People have baked bread in it for a long time. Women in long skirts and long-sleeved, high-necked blouses, who managed the fire in the stove themselves, putting in just the right number of small logs, expertly keeping the fire evenly hot. Warm work. Strong women.

With the right combination of attitude and necessity, heat goes away if you just stay in it for a while. You drink a glass of water and notice its coolness, sit by the window and feel a momentary breeze, think of the dough changing into bread behind the oven door, and soon it's done. Then you bring out the fragrant loaves and lay them on their sides to cool, and you invent a reason to go outside.
Copyright © 2018 Barbara Crafton
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