Have you ever watched yeast bloom? Good yeast — truly active yeast that will make your loaves of bread rise high — will foam and bubble, sometimes releasing large bubbles into the bowl of warm sugar water. It’s a living process that’s both fascinating and surprising. Even knowing how yeast reacts to sugared water, I am always enraptured seeing how it behaves each time.
Kids are like that too — both fascinating and surprising. As a parent, you come to know generally how they’ll behave in different situations. But even with that knowledge, they have the power to completely surprise you — sometimes in a good way, other times not.
Last weekend at the Festival of Lights parade in downtown Bangor, one float handed out glow bracelets. Both of my kids received them, and my son’s worked particularly well. Smiling, he wound it around his wrist and showed it off to his sister, who was perfectly happy with her half-lit pink bracelet.
A little while later though, noticing that the child next to him, whom we didn’t know, had received a dud, Will took the bracelet off his wrist and gave it to him.
He tried to do it as quietly as possible, reaching over and placing it on the blanket the child was sitting on. I don’t think he even knew I was looking until I said something about the nice gesture. It was so kind. He just wanted to brighten someone else’s day.
Despite knowing how much Will likes glow anything — like most kids — and also knowing how Will has such a giving nature, I was still surprised. In a good way, of course. In Will, as he navigates his tween years, I see the bubbling generosity of someone who truly cares about others. It’s amazing and heartening and so many other good things.
God, I’m proud of that boy for the young man he’s becoming. And I’m not sure I have anything to do with it — it’s just who he is.
Back to the kitchen: That bloomed yeast, when mixed with flour, salt and perhaps some herbs, comes together in a sloppy dough that sticks to everything. And sometimes I cannot imagine dough like that becoming a slice of warm, yeasty bread. But it does. After two rises, and a little time in the oven, the sloppy dough becomes a crusty loaf just waiting to be sliced and enjoyed.
(I could draw parallels here between tweens and teens and the process of making bread … . Thank goodness those messy, difficult years bake little people into good adults, or least we hope they do. But let’s just leave it at that.)
This recipe for Herbed Yeast Bread is airy and fragrant. On top, I sprinkled oats and pepitas, but you could use sunflower seeds or any combination there of. Whatever moves you. Spread a little butter on it, and enjoy.
- 1½ cups lukewarm water
- 1½ tbsp sugar
- 2½ tsp dry active yeast (1 packet)
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 tbsp minced herbs, such as rosemary, thyme and basil
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp warm water
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp old fashioned oats, sunflower seeds, pepitas or a combination of these
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together the water and sugar. Sprinkle with yeast and let sit until it bubbles. Good yeast will bubble up and form a foamy layer on top.
- Add the flour, herbs and salt to the bowl of the stand mixer. Using the dough hook, mix on low until the flour is just incorporated. Increase the mixer speed to medium-high and knead with the dough hook for 2 minutes. Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl, cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise at room temperature for at least 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
- Remove the towel and, with clean, wet hands, punch down the dough. Then knead for 1 minute. Transfer the dough to a greased loaf pan. Cover again with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for at least one hour, or until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is preheating, stir together the warm water and salt for the topping. Brush the top of the loaf with the salt water mixture and then sprinkle with desired toppings.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes, until golden. Let cool in the pan for two minutes before loosening from the sides with a knife and turning out onto a cutting board.