I ONCE MOVED to a community--and ended up living and working there four years--on the sole tantalizing clue that this particular retreat center baked homemade bread every day.
A loaf of bread offers substantial nourishment and is an edible sign of the goodness of the earth, as well as someone's labor and love. Granted, homemade yeast bread crumbles in the toaster, takes hours to make, and sometimes, unfortunately, turns out flat and unappetizing. But don't be discouraged from this most noble pursuit.
Bread can be as simple as a small French round (only water, flour, salt, oil, and yeast) or as elaborate as a rich egg dough with cinnamon-nut filling, braided into a coffeecake and served warm with a maple glaze. Pick a recipe from a cookbook, newspaper, or magazine, or use the one printed below, and get started.
If your schedule is too full for all-day breadbaking, even on Saturdays, split the process into two stages. Make dough late one afternoon or evening, then refrigerate overnight and bake it the next day. (Making bread dough at night gives you a chance to knead out the day's thoughts and worries.) This is also a way to have hot rolls for breakfast without getting up at 4 a.m. The pre-formed rolls or loaves need about an hour to shake their refrigerator chill before baking.
An intriguing development is a white whole-wheat flour soon to be introduced on the open market. It combines the nutritional value of regular whole-wheat flour with all-purpose flour's milder flavor and ease of use. This flour has been used successfully in pizza, brownies, cookies, and chocolate layer cake, items usually not made with all whole-wheat flour. Watch out, unsuspecting junk food addicts!
The following recipe gives proportions for one small loaf of regular whole-wheat bread.