It is only about 60 degrees outside right now, yet here I sit on my garden bench, under my favorite red maple, soaking up the sparse sunshine and reveling in a Monday morning with no call to Calculus. The first day of summer vacation, over a month before my kids will begin their break. It is bittersweet.
This time last year, we already had a number of 70s and 80s+ days at this point. My daughter was still in preschool and our days were much freer. The passage of time marches on, however, with no regard to the things that we hold dear. What was will never be again.
So here begins my last summer break. My last summer of lazy days and sunny rays, smiling faces and backyard races. There will be summers after this, for certain, but none with the freedom we have right here, right now. Enjoy every minute for what it is worth–we do not know what the future will bring. We don’t have much, but we have this, and it’s worth more than all the money in the world.
Bread embodies the idea of living in the moment. It is ever-changing and your experience with it will differ whether it is freshly-baked, 2 hours after baking, 1 day after, or 3 days. Each bite is a lesson in the passage of time and a chance to enjoy every moment of it. On the first day, it is soft and springy, young and new. Tear a piece off and devour it, warm and delightful, in a child-like pursuit. The next day, it becomes better suited to sturdier applications, like French toast. Middle aged now, there is life in this loaf yet, if you just give her a chance. The third day (if it lasts that long) brings a tougher character. The bread is best used for regular morning toast now, fresh from the oven with sweet cream butter melted into the crispy nooks and crannies. And you know what? It is all good!
Cinnamon Raisin Bread
adapted from Biggest Book of Bread Machine Recipes (Better Homes and Gardens Cooking)
yields a 1-1/2 pound loaf
- 1 cup + 2 Tbsp milk, warmed slightly in the microwave
- 2 Tbsp butter, softened
- 3 Tbsp maple syrup
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1 cup whole wheat flour (I only had whole wheat pastry flour, so I used that)
- 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 3/4 tsp fine sea salt
- 2 tsp active dry yeast or bread machine yeast
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 Tbsp dark rum
Add all but the raisins to your bread machine according to manufacturer’s directions. Select loaf size (1-1/2 pounds) and crust color (I chose light; because of the high sugar content, it will burn on darker settings) on the white bread cycle. Watch the bread pan for the first 5 minutes or so, adding flour or milk a Tbsp at a time if necessary to get the proper consistency (the dough ball should be a smooth ball: if the dough beater is flopping around and the wet dough stretches but doesn’t gather together, it’s probably too moist; if the ingredients won’t all come together and you have flour sitting around in piles, then it’s probably too dry). Try not to add too much of anything as it could throw the ratios off, and bread-making is all about ratios.
Measure out the raisins and add 1 Tbsp or so of dark rum, mixing it throughout them. Set aside. When the machine indicates, add the raisins (usually at the start of the second kneading cycle). Then wait.
Through the magic of the bread machine, with very little effort, you’ll have a very tasty bread ready for you in less than three hours. I recommend storing the bread in a container like this one from Amazon.com, for best results. Putting it in a zip-top plastic bag will make the crust too soft, and just leaving it out will make it stale rapidly.