My earliest food memories have to do with bread.
I grew up in Africa in the late fifties, sixties, and seventies. What bread we had my mother made from scratch, at least in the early years. I think that’s one of the reasons I grew up wanting to be in the kitchen. There’s something about the smells of the whole bread baking process — the dryness of the flour, the pregnant promise of the yeast as it dissolves, the aroma of invitation that fills the house as the bread bakes — that make most any house feel like a home.
For Ginger and me, special occasions are marked by special bread.
My mother passed on a family recipe to me for “Refrigerator Rolls,” which is a bread dough that contains yeast, baking powder, and baking soda, and will keep in the fridge for a week or more, making it possible to bake a little each day.
Here’s the recipe:
1 quart milk, scalded and poured over
1 cup sugar and
1 cup butter
(I do it in the bowl of my kitchen Aid mixer on low speed)
Let cool and then add
2 packages yeast dissolved in
1/2 cup water
8 cups of flour, one cup at a time (I use 1 cup of whole wheat flour)
Cover and let rise until doubled, then add
1 cup flour mixed with
3 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking Soddy
Cover and let rise again.
When I make our rolls, I use a biscuit cutter and then drag the bottom through some olive oil and fold then in half. You can also cook the dough in loaves; it also makes great cinnamon rolls. Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes. We’re talking seriously addictive bread here.
I’m convinced part of what makes bread dough rise are all the memories it contains. Each time I make the rolls I am tapping into the history of my mother and grandmother doing the same thing. I am also connecting with all the loaves that have been baked and broken at any table that was and is to come.
That’s good honest work.