Welcome to the second Tuesdays with Ana of 2014! 2014, phew. It’s still hard to believe this is reality. Wasn’t Y2K just a year or two ago?
Did everyone have a good new year’s celebration? Here at Governing Ana, we’ll have a Lunar New Year celebration (often erroneously called “Chinese New Year” even though far more countries than China celebrate the new year according to the lunar calendar) on January 30, January 31, and February 1. January 31 is the official date of the lunar new year, but often the tradition is to celebrate the day after and before as well. We’ll have a special guest post about the Lunar New Year in Malaysia, and we’ll also have a visit from Mira and Hana describing their celebration in South Korea. They have, shall we say, a somewhat kinky twist to a traditional new year’s game. 😀
Due to some difficulties with the cover art, Mira’s Miracle has been rescheduled for release this Friday, January 10! I’ll have a special sneak peek for you as part of Saturday Spankings, and we’ll get to hear from the wonderful Maren Smith who created the Castle world where Hana and Mira visit. It’s been a wonderful journey to write the “happily ever after” for Mira, although of course she has to conquer her fears from Desire in Any Language. Please check back later this week for more behind-the-scenes fun, including some outtakes from the creation of Mira’s Miracle. 😀
As for today’s Tuesdays with Ana topic, I have recently learned to make bread. Not banana bread or other quick breads that I learned how to make in childhood, but honest-to-goodness real bread with yeast and kneading. I grew up in an area and era filled with bakeries and, if you were ambitious, bread-making machines. I don’t believe my mother ever made bread (unless it was decades ago), and I’m not even sure if my grandmother did. For sure, my grandmother never made bread when I was old enough to remember.
So for me, when a friend came to visit last spring, I couldn’t wait to watch the magic of bread making. She entered armed with flour, oil, and yeast (as if I don’t stock oil or flour…sheesh! 🙂 ), and we got to work. Except bread making is an art rather than a science, so after she left I enjoyed the fresh bread but didn’t feel confident about using the leftover yeast (which is still in my fridge as I type this post). I loved pounding the dough, and kneading the mixture took both strength and effort. I couldn’t believe that a few ingredients and less than two hours could result in chewy, dense, homemade bread unlike anything found in grocery stores.
Since then my friend has encouraged me to make bread on my own, but perfectionist Ana doesn’t do well with trial and error. What if I had to throw out a failure? What if I wasted half a bag of flour, plus created all that mess for nothing?
When I cook meals, very rarely do I actually cook a failure. Baking, however, is finicky. Margarine instead of butter, or ungreased pan versus greased, or the wrong kind of flour can result in an unsightly, disgusting mess. I tried to make salt-free banana bread with yeast last week, and I was annoyed all day after I had to throw out the half-cooked lump.
Last week, however, I screwed up my courage and plunged my hands into a bowlful of flour, oil, water, yeast, sugar, and salt. I kneaded and squeezed and pounded and twisted, and I let the dough rise. Half an hour later, two perfect loaves of braided bread dough greeted me. Mm! After dusting the dough with an egg wash and different kinds of seasoning, I got to take out my very first two loaves of bread made by my very own hands. Without any help, coaching, or advice, either. 🙂
Slicing that first crust and spreading the bread with fresh salted butter…mmm! I dislike most of the factory-made bread (too little flavor and weird texture), and I have yet to find a good bakery that stocks bread I like. I still prefer whole wheat bread to white, but I’ll take homemade white bread over bakery whole wheat bread any day. No icky chemicals, no disgusting preservatives, no ingredients I can’t pronounce…just wholesome, filling, yummy goodness of bread straight from the oven to my table. Next time, I’ll try adding a bit of whole wheat flour to see if the bread still turns out all right.
I’ve always been more of a baker than a cook (sweets, desserts, cookies, candy), so being able to cook regular-meal food has been a pleasant surprise. Homemade bread is not that much more work than quick bread, and it’s a lot healthier than eating cake disguised as bread. 😀
For me, I find bread making meditative, contemplative, and centering. Some people pray by remaining silent and still, but I’ve never been able to do that. I fidget, my mind wanders, and I start imagining other scenarios instead of focusing. But if I work on a repetitive task like kneading bread or baking, I find myself refreshed, stabilized, and better prepared to deal with life’s dramas.
How about you? Have you ever made bread? Do you have favorite recipes? If you’ve never made bread, would you like to learn? Do you have any secret bread making tips?
What do you find helps you with everyday stress? What is your “bread making” relaxation?