Sunday, April 18, 2010

Warm Bread Rising

I remember the first time I got hot over warm bread.

I was an elementary school student and we were camping during summer vacation in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The family had piled into the station wagon and driven into the town of Conway to purchase groceries at the local IGA.

We walked into the store and collided with the intoxicating aroma – fresh, fragrant, sunny and malty. The store had a bakery and there were burgeoning loaves of rustic white bread rising in the oven. We snapped up a warm loaf and ate it with our camp stove dinner that night. Immediately we boys began pressuring our parents to return to the IGA for more fresh baked bread.

Was it there in Conway, New Hampshire that I experienced my first craving? Until that time, my bread had come in white plastic wrappers sealed with twist ties, and often with red, yellow and blue balloons on the package.

That day in the IGA remains a pivotal moment. The yeasty aroma of freshly baking bread was a revelation. I had to have more, and I needed to learn more. Today, the Old Man in the Mountains is gone from New Hampshire, but the craving for fresh bread that began in Conway remains – not just to buy it, or eat it, but to bake it. I have a deep knead to experience that ancient alchemy that conjures up plump, bronze loaves of flaky bread.

I’ve had some successes. I even took a full-month of training in European Breads with excellent results – in the classroom. At home, I could never get the bread to rise. The house was always too drafty, or too warm, or too cold. Until now.

Presenting the latest feature in the suburban Long Island kitchen makeover – the Warming Drawer – complete with a setting for proofing bread!

Note the sleek exterior and aerodynamic styling.

As soon as it is connected, I move into action, and select a recipe full of good things from the Martha Stewart Baking Handbook, “Honey Whole-Wheat Bread.” There’s nothing really complicated about a bread recipe – just flour, water, salt and yeast – but just for fun, Martha adds honey and wheat germ for a nice flavor boost.
I knead the bread by hand into a smooth and elastic disk. It’s therapeutic.

The dough goes into the pre-heated warming drawer and within an hour it has doubled in size.

The dough is punched down and divided into two loaves. At this point I am taking every step with extreme caution. I really want this to work. No need to worry. With another thirty minutes inside the drawer, these are really beginning to look like loaves of bread.

A little egg wash gives each loaf a golden lacquer, and with one hour in the oven, we’ve got bread – two heavenly loaves!

It’s so easy it almost feels like witchcraft, or like one of those magic boxes used by a Las Vegas magician.

I’m not even sure I care exactly how the warming drawer works its magic. I’m just glad I don’t have to make the six hour drive to Conway, New Hampshire to satisfy my craving.
©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved

16 comments:

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

Okay, now I have warming drawer envy. The loaves look perfect and will be great for sandwiches. And if that's the first product of the warming drawer, I can only imagine the good things to come. Enjoy!

My Carolina Kitchen said...

T.W. You've brought back wonderful memories for me. My mother made homemade white bread everyday when we were growing up. She also made homemade mayonnaise and homemade blackberry jelly. Until I went to school I didn't know you could buy bread, mayo or jelly in stores. She bought me a big red bowl and gave it to me (so I could make my own bread) when we got married. Unfortunately she never showed me how to make it and I fear yeast.

We have a warming drawer. I never thought of using it for rising dough. We've been making Jim Lahhey's no-knead bread with some success. Maybe I should go back to the basics and give the warming drawer a try. Thanks for the tip. Your bread is gorgeous.
Sam

Julia said...

ooh, a warming drawer! How decadent! And the bread looks great too, very impressive.

~~louise~~ said...

Now, that's one gadget I can warm up to! Of course, I have a terrible fear of yeast and it would probably become a place to stash those loaves of bread with the red, yellow and blue balloons:)

You've baked up loaves of heavenly proportion, T.W. Bravo!

It's a shame about The Old Man in the Mountains. I do have a picture of him around here somewhere. I think the IGA out in Montauk still has fresh loaves of bread daily, although, I haven't been there in quite some time.

You certainly did an outstanding job T.W. How fast can you ship a loaf to PA? Better yet, bring one with you but hurry, I'm leaving Saturday...

Thanks for sharing...

Kalyn said...

Wow, I don't know what's more beautiful, the warming drawing or your gorgeous bread.

Mary said...

It is, indeed, gorgeous looking bread. I must admit to pangs of envy over that warming drawer. It really is the ultimate in kitchen embellishments. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

Kathy said...

A warming drawer? Looks fabulous and I want one too! I suspect (and hope) we'll be seeing more yummy homemade from you in the future.

Kathleen said...

I want a warming drawer! Your bread looks amazing!

A Feast for the Eyes said...

Someday... my kitchen will get a makeover and I want a warming drawer! In the meantime, I warm my oven and turn it off and there's my makeshift warming drawer. Perfect bread... no need to worry at all!

veron said...

Ah, I want a warming drawer now! I just don't know where to put it in the house. Your bread looks fantastic!!!

Fresh Local and Best said...

My goodness! That warming drawer is so neat! I think fewer people would be afraid of baking yeast breads if they had one of those in the kitchen. The bread looks perfect.

tasteofbeirut said...

Your emotions were bursting through here! I could imagine it all and was thinking how wonderful something so primal and simple as making bread can cause such feelings; great bread, by the way!

Lisa said...

When I had my kitchen remodelled last year, I totally forgot to add a warming drawer! Darn it!

Sophie said...

There is nothing better then home made bread!

Your breads look grand!

MMMM,...You have a warming drawer!! That's handy!

lsant920 said...

I have a built in warming drawer on my stove will it work the same as your warming drawer to raise my home made bread?

T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

I'm sure it will work - check the manufacturer instructions for the proper settings, but I'll bet if it's built into your stove it's quite easy. Just check to see if there's a setting for proofing bread, specifically.