We would have it with spaghetti for dinner that night and then eat it in various iterations during the rest of the week. While it was cooking on the back of the stove, he would call me over and hand me a morsel of bread dripping with sauce.
“Mangia,” he would say.”
That was the way you tasted the sauce to see if it was done. You didn’t use a spoon. You used a piece of bread torn off a loaf. After all, you had to know how the sauce interacted with the bread—was it sweet enough, pungent enough, delicate yet hearty enough. If it tasted good on the bread, it would taste good on pasta.
I have always loved bread.
It reminds me of my father. It reminds me of Sunday dinners growing up. It remind me of love and of Mario Lanza singing on the record player in the background.
It reminded me of my people.
Everything comes together with bread.
Here is a recipe for homemade bread that I got from a co-worker about 10 years ago. I don’t know where the original recipe for it came from but it is the recipe that makes everything come together for me again. It is a bread that is crusty on the outside and chewy on the inside. Strong enough to stand up to peanut butter, mild enough to not interfere with plain ol’ honey and perfect for dipping in the sauce on the back of the stove.
(No Kneading Required) Spelt Flour Homemade Bread
- 1 package yeast (not rapid rise)
- 2 cups luke-warm water (see Notes)
- 4 cups organic spelt flour (See Notes)
- 1 tbs.sugar
- 2 tsp. salt
- Coconut oil for oiling pan and top of loaf (See Notes)
1) In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in one cup of the water.
2) While the yeast is dissolving, mix together the flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
3) Add the water with yeast and the second cup of water and mix until very soft and sticky.
4) Cover the bowl with a clean cloth, (making sure there is room for the dough to raise without sticking to the cloth) and put in a warm place to raise.
5) Let the dough raise until it doubles in size, 2 to 4 hours.
6) When the dough is high and springy, flatten it down with the palm of your hand and pour it, (and I do mean pour it), into a well greased container for baking.
7) Oil the top of the bread by dabbing your fingers into a dish of coconut oil and spreading the oil over the top surface of the dough.
8) Let the dough raise a second time for 1 hour.
9) Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour until it is golden brown on top, releases it fragrance and begins to shrink away from the sides of the baking dish.
I use organic spelt flour for this bread. While I have used all purpose flour, I find spelt flour makes a loaf that is more like the taste and texture of the bread I ate when I was growing up. It also provides a very flaky, delectable crust whereas regular all-purpose flour does not. Also, I have been gluten intolerant for years, and when I use organic spelt flour for this bread I don’t get any of the symptoms I get when I make it with all-purpose flour.
(This is not a health claim. It is just my experience.)
You can also add more water than the recipe calls for. I live in the southwest desert and flour gets very dry in this climate so I always have to add more water than the recipe calls for. I usually add enough more water to the dough (a few tablespoons at a time) to make the dough “a little bit softer than the underside of a woman’s upper arm.” (A very poetic—yet perfect—description of the consistency that is needed).
When the air conditioner/swamp cooler is on in the house it is hard for me to find a place warm enough to raise dough. I have discovered that raising it in a bowl on the floor of a closed up car that is parked in the sun works quite nicely. I have also raised it on top of the dryer inside a closed laundry room while the dryer was on and I was drying clothes.
The recipe calls for raising the dough for 2-4 hours and I have gone to the grocery store or out to run errands and come back in 4 hours with no harm.
The bread requires a container to bake it in as the dough is too soft to make a freeform loaf. I have used a soufflé dish, which makes a round, high loaf and I have also used a plain 9 x12 baking dish. Since my husband and I both like lots of crust I use the 9 x 12 baking pan to make the bread for us. While that pan gives us short slices (more like foccacio than a “loaf” of bread), it also gives us lots of crust.
It is very important to use lots of coconut oil when greasing the pan. The dough is soft and has a tendency to stick, but if you use lots of oil and bake it until it begins to shrink away from the pan, you won’t have any trouble getting it out of the pan. Just let it sit for a few minutes after you take it out of the oven and you should be able to turn it out easily onto a rack for drying.
I bet you won’t be able to wait until it cools off to taste it. “Mangia!”
Relephant by Carmelene:
Author: Carmelene Siani
Editor: Renée Picard
Photo: author’s own