Saturday, January 1, 2011

Lazy Sunday (Bread-Making)

I know I didn't blog for the holiday season... so Happy Christmas and New Years, late. And consider this an apology...

A cold front blew through central China yesterday. I'm not complaining, mind you. The cold front entered with massive amounts of rain and dreary cloud cover which allowed Pat and I to stay in bed all of New Years Day- venturing into the rest of the frigid apartment only at mealtimes or when my need of a hot drink got the best of me- without the significant amount of guilt that usually plagues me on days of epic inactivity.

This morning (Sunday as the title indicates) I awoke to the sound of more rain. I laid in bed, listening to the heater, to Pat's sleepy breathing, and to the precipitation. It quieted down after a while and when I got up to make breakfast, I realized that it was snowing again. That's right, twice in three weeks or less. I stood in the kitchen while my coffee brewed and the oatmeal cooked and watched the big flakes flutter and fall outside of the window. This would change things. Again- not that I'm complaining.

Instead of the post-day-in-bed invigorating run I had planned, I would probably be a huge baby and stay inside where it was relatively warm and dry and do yoga. Instead of trying to talk Pat into going downtown to pick up supplies from the western goods store, I would try and talk him into walking to the corner store to get milk and eggs and make-do with that. Mostly, instead of working on job applications and at least attempting some productive work today, I would bake bread. A delightful loaf of Oatmeal Toasting Bread (see King Arthur Flour). (Also, the heater just stopped heating at 17 degrees c and ours is set to stop at 26c. Heaters in China pull heat directly from outside your window, blast it and then pass it into your apartment- this means it's really freaking cold out if the heater has given up already).

The thing about bread is this one perfectly satisfying moment- when you've thrown all the dry ingredients together, and you've activated the yeast, and you combine everything into one bowl and begin mixing. As the dough comes together it becomes warm and pillowy, it is sticky but not like other doughs- it is a dry, luscious, yeasty sticky that lasts only a moment before you have to turn the dough out and begin kneading it so that all of that stick becomes stuck and smooth and bready. That's the moment. That is what makes painfully cold mornings in an apartment whose heater regularly stops working perfectly OK.

If you are at all acquainted with me, you know that I would happily spend all day, every day, baking and cooking. I adore the creative culinary process and the feeling of feeding people is the most delightfully satisfying that I can think of. That's why I bake bread. In China. On lazy Sunday mornings.

Cheers friends,
and Again, Happy Holidays that I missed.
Go forth, and bake bread.