That Memory Of Baking Bread

The other day I was doing some task; I can’t even recall what it was. When suddenly and out of nowhere I smelled the aroma of baking bread.

For a time I baked bread every week when my girls were young.

That smell, wherever it came from, put me back in a little kitchen in the little house we lived in.

The girls were at school. I’d try to time the baking of the bread so they’d walk in the door from the school around the corner and smell that warm bread smell.

Memories Of Baking Bread:

That memory of baking bread comes back from time to time and I can see that flour and other ingredients in my mind.

I recall I baked bread in the little kitchen I’d painted yellow. I’d hung red shelves (that I also painted) on the one wall closest to the table.

I recall sprinkling the little packet of yeast into the water.

The water couldn’t be too hot or the yeast would die and my bread wouldn’t rise. If it was too cold the yeast wouldn’t activate, also causing the bread not to rise.

When you open a package of yeast, it should smell earthy and “yeasty.” But if it doesn’t, you should test the yeast’s liveliness by combining it with some of the warm water from the recipe and a pinch of sugar.

If the yeast is active, it will produce a bubbly mass within 10 minutes.

The Yeast Process:

Mixing the ingredients together to bake bread.

The yeast feeds on the sugar in the bread dough to make little carbon dioxide bubbles. These bubbles get trapped in the dough and make it rise.

Yeast is used for more than rising bread. It’s essential for brewing beer and making wine, as well as soy sauce and vinegar.

I recall the actions required: The kneading of the dough, which is such a relaxing and rewarding task. Then I’d turn it over and punch the dough on the surface I’d covered with a light dusting of flour.

When the dough held together nicely, I’d lightly flour my hands again before handling it.

Shaping The Dough:

Then I’d shape the dough into a big bowl and add a light coating of grease to it. And then I’d turn it over to lightly grease the other side.

The floured surface in that memory of baking bread

It was time to let the magic happen. I’d put a dishtowel over the bowl of dough and wait for it to rise.

I’d check on it from time to time, and then I’d finally walk in and see that the dishtowel had risen up with the dough underneath. The dough would be about twice the original size.

Punching The Dough Back Down:

Then I’d punch the dough back down. Deflating the dough after it rises releases the carbon dioxide built up in the dough and further relaxes gluten. This makes it easier to shape.

I’d wait about ten minutes after having gently put the dough into the greased loaf pan it would be baked in. It would once again be covered with the dishtowel.

The shaping of the loaf of bread I was about to put in the oven

The dough would rise again and be ready to put in the oven. Oh my, the smell of dough being baked into a loaf of bread. There’s no other smell like it.

I recall after the bread was done I’d let it sit for a few minutes. Then I’d gently turn the glass loaf pan over and help ease the bread out onto the counter.

Memory & Smell Are Intertwined:

Did you know that memory and smell are intertwined? It’s through memory that we learn to remember smells.

Smell, more than any other sense, can evoke powerful, emotional memories. Whole scenes of people, places, and things can be brought back to life by the hint of a long-forgotten scent.

There is no better memory than that of baking bread

Researchers hypothesize that the exceptional ability that smells have to trigger memories is due to how close the olfactory processing system is to the memory hub in the brain.

The sense of smell can bring back childhood memories that the senses of touch, taste, and sound cannot.

It is a wonderful memory, the smell of bread baking.

Afterward, I’d slice myself a piece of bread and spread butter or jam on it. Nothing ever tasted that good.

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12 Comments

  1. I grew up eating my grandmother’s yeast rolls and cornbread. Her yeast rolls were, by far, my family’s favorite. She used cake yeast, and carefully filled each pan cup with three little rolled balls. Sometimes I’d only eat the rolls with plenty of butter as my evening meal.

  2. I’ve baked bread by hand before and also with a bread machine. I still have my bread machine in the basement – and it still works – though I rarely use it. We just don’t eat a lot of bread these days. The machine got more of a workout when the boys were growing up and I made bigger family meals.

    My mom makes her own handmade sourdough bread. Now *that* is good stuff! Good for your gut, too unlike conventional bread.

  3. I had a bread machine, too, but in my opinion, that bread was never as good as the “from scratch” kind you could make yourself. The “fold, push, turn” of kneading would go on for 10 minutes before it was put in a greased bowl and allowed to rise again. What memories!

  4. Brenda,
    on Wednesday I made Beer bread to serve with a new recipe for Lamb stew with parsnips, pearl onions, Yukon gold potatoes and other veggies. I took my rescue Brittany spaniel, Lucy for a fall afternoon walk. When we walked into the mudroom the smell from those foods was incredible! In fact, my dog actually looked up at me and gave me the most amazing dog smile! Of course she got some lamb stew without any onions topping her kibble; and a little bit of buttered bread. Oh, how I love food smells, and fall is my favorite season because I really love to cook!

  5. Years ago, when bread machines were all the rage, I used to bake bread all the time. Even though I didn’t do all the physical work myself, the house always smelled wonderful when I’d make bread. We couldn’t wait to eat it, then it was gone in the blink of an eye. Warm buttered bread… mmmm!

  6. When we were growing up my Dad use to go to the bakery every Saturday and buy some dough. Then he would come home and bake it for the family. The guy use to save bread dough for him every Saturday morning knowing he would come and get it!

    My Mom always cooked and baked everything else but not bread. Lol
    We were very sad when the bakery closed bc they wanted to retire.
    They should of wrote a cookbook or gave out the recipes bc the baker that worked there never would! He was asked multiple times and I even asked him over the yrs when he picked up his wife at work! He always said no. I wanted the lemon bars recipe bc it tasted like no other!
    Next time I see my parents I’ll have to ask them if they remember that bakery.
    Have a safe and fantastic day Brenda!

  7. There’s 😋 nothing like home baked breads ,,,,,, those aromas!!! I truly enjoyed the 😉 entire process. Especially the glorious ❤ munching on buttered slices!! My niece does the bread-baking for her family now. Not every week. Special occasions. The one favorite bread I made was stuffed with mozzarella cheese & herbs. Was delicious. Love making Challah & Pullman loaves studded with light & dark raisins. So good!!! Then there are amazing 👏 biscuits everyone loves! Especially me!! Just saw a recipe for pumpkin biscuits. They sure look amazing with butter & jam!!! Sure wish I could keep doing it. Too old now. 😕 Our niece is very generous. She always bakes extra (mini) loaves for us!!!

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