Baking Bread With My Dad

Last week, I spent a few days visiting my dad in Arkansas.

In between trips to Walmart and going to the "early-bird" Bible class with his retired friends, one item that is always on the agenda is baking bread.

Day one: feed the starter and mix the dough.

Day one: feed the starter and mix the dough.

A retired university professor, Dad bakes sourdough bread at least once a week.  He uses a starter that my mother used for years, and he took over the bread-baking duties before she passed away several years ago.  He also bakes the best pie crusts, and used to make pies for his students at the end of each semester.

In their small town, he is known for his homemade bread.   Whenever someone is sick or needs something fixed, he is always there to help out – and often takes a freshly-baked loaf.  And when he remarried a few years ago to the lovely Janice, she was delighted to find out she had married the best baker in town!

He will happily share the recipe and starter with anyone who asks, but you are then committing to the constant care and feeding of the starter and baking bread frequently -  whether you want to or not.

Day two: knead the dough and let it rise.

Day two: knead the dough and let it rise.

Anytime I come home, Dad "just happens to have" a few extra loaves on-hand that I can pack up and bring back to New York. 

When I visited him a few summers ago, I watched as he was mixing the dough one night.  He opened the pantry door, and I noticed it was well-stocked with King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour and Whole Wheat Flour.  (The company hired me for many years to do TV segments for them).  He confirmed that it is the best flour, and that he would never use anything else.  He said “I don’t know what makes it different, but it makes all the difference in how the bread turns out.” 

Day three: divide into pans, let rise again and bake.  Voila - the finished product!

Day three: divide into pans, let rise again and bake.  Voila - the finished product!

Indeed.  Just hours after this last photo was taken, both freshly-baked loaves were cool - and safely packed up for their flight to New York with me.