Bread for Little People

Four loaves of molasses bread (recipe included back at this post)

(I also started a recipe page–see that cute little tab at the top of the page? A link to the molasses bread recipe is there, too)

Mixed: 7:30 am

Molded: 10 am

Baked: 11 am

Gave to twelve children celebrating the beauty of forgiveness

I know that I made this video as a trailer for my book on Saint Brigid, so it’s odd that I’m posting it again here. But, sometimes you make things, write things, say things, and there’s a force bigger than you involved. That’s what popped into my head when I dropped off the bread today–that these children are stuffed with not only their own human gifts and talents, but that they also hold a force of love inside of them that can fling them into the realm of heavenly beauty in the flash of a lightning bolt, and unveil truths that you never knew were sitting inside…

My prayer is that this type of thing happens every time I pick up the pen to write but, oh, so often, too much of me gets in the way.

This video has more than me and my creative energy behind it. Something beyond what I intended snuck inside. Something that blends the power of the holy spirit and the beauty of God’s endless love for children. I marvel at these photos of innocent faces, and since I baked molasses bread for twelve children today–to culminate a spiritual retreat that has spanned many weeks–I thought this video would be the perfect way to share.



Giving–February Play by Play

Four loaves of French bread

Mixed: 8 pm

Molded: 10:30 pm

(Retarded overnight)

Baked: 7:30 am

Gave two to a family with a newborn, one to a super science teacher…

The morning started with baking. The French mix I made had too much moisture… The bread came out looking super yicky. I decided to give it away, anyway. Lent is a time for humility!

Contrast this to the bread my brothers are making in their new bakery in LA. Ooh, la la. That sourdough is beyond words…

Off to science class. Dropped my daughter off to learn about molecules. Then made my way down the road to deliver two loaves of the ugly French to a family with a brand new babe. The mama’s a redhead–and I’m partial to those whose recessive hair genes won out. They were having a bit of a rough morning, so I gave the bread, and a book, and off we sped.

To the playground!

And in the mix of the twenty or so children jumping, digging, swinging and begging for snacks, I spotted a busy redhead burning off her morning’s cinnamon toast. Look at her go!

Then I bought a donut for my traveling companion, and we talked about how to make chocolate machines for a while.

The donut gone–we strolled a while, then bumped into a crocodile.

(I wish–that’s right out of one of my favorite children’s books, Tumble Bumble.)

We picked up my daughter, where I learned that one of the molecule experiments got a little too lively. The teacher recommended bringing goggles next week. 🙂

And now I’m home, wanting to redeem myself and bake a loaf of beautiful bread.



24 dinner rolls, two loaves of no-knead, and a lenten cake

Needed an oven schedule for all the various bready things

Gave to the Kings–a whole house full of them

It was in a bakery in Saint Louis, many years ago, when I was accidentally locked in a commercial proof box. I had rolled a full rack of bread that needed rising into the large metal box. It was a walk-in space, large enough to house several six-foot racks. The heavy door that seals the space, holding  in the heat and moisture, slowly swung shut behind me. The emergency lock that lets you out from the inside had rusted to little bits of useless frustration. I was stuck. It was way over a hundred degrees inside and the humidity at 100 percent.

If you know me, you also know that I have a tendency to faint when it’s too hot. I have several very dramatic fainting stories that I drag out now and again to amuse friends. As I knocked on that door to be rescued from the heat of the proof box, as I waited and tried to push back the panic, it was hard not to imagine fainting and being found the next morning in a heap by the door. The headlines that wooshed through my mind were zingers:

Baker’s Daughter Overproofed.

Proofing Proves Fatal.

Risen, but Dead.

Someone finally heard my screams and pounding. I was shaken, and indeed overproofed when I emerged. I took the rest of the day off. Odd though it may seem, I’ve never had any desire to return to Saint Louis. Ever.

For the last several days I’ve been feeling a bit bewildered and… overproofed. One event has tag-teamed the next, and though all of them have been worth while, worth working for, (like our wonderful evening with Frederica Mathewes-Green!) I haven’t baked much–and my kids are yelling, Mom, where’s the bread? With the panic of Saint Louis in the back of my mind, I have tried not to get to the deadly kind of headliner stage.


House Blessing Saves the Day

Last night we had a fun gathering with some old and some new friends as our house was blessed for the new year. We marched around our home, out to the offices, to the garage, opening every door, holy water flying everywhere, singing all the while. The sharing of the event was just what I needed to pull me out of my little, hot and humid hole. I’m breathing in the feel of a new start–of a holy dwelling, of the prayers still lingering in the air.

So hopefully my kids will forgive me for living a bread-less existence, and get back to eating their pbj’s on the few leftover rolls from the party.

Amazing what a dose of song and holy water and close friends can do…

Gluten-Free Giving

Two loaves of Mark Engelberg’s Gluten-free, Vegan Bread

Mixed and poured:  4 pm

Baked: 5:15 pm

Gave to a family with wheat allergies

There’s a family I know with a new baby. If you’ve ever been a mom, you know what it’s like those first few months of tending a newborn. There are so many beautiful moments of feeding and marveling at the soft skin and the little toes. Of watching the baby sleep, his tiny chest rising and falling rhythmically. But tending these little people is fatiguing, then add a newborn who needs surgery, who has struggles that other babies might not have, and you have one sleepless, survival-mode mommy…

I asked if I could bake for them. And that’s how I’ve been introduced to the world of gluten-free baking. And what a world it is? It’s like speaking a foreign language.




Xanthan gum

(Then add–Tapioca flour, sugar, salt, potato starch, cornstarch, yeast, olive oil, and water)

Can you believe I fit all of those ingredients into one loaf of bread? With so many distinct grains and starches swimming around in there, it’s no wonder it’s generically (and badly) named Gluten-Free, Vegan Bread.

First of all, I want to know who Mark Engelberg is, the creator of this recipe. The recipe I used is here, and has been copied all over the web. But where is Mark? I tried to find the man, but couldn’t. What I’d like to know is: How did he ever think to put such an odd mixture of ingredients together all in one bowl? Why did he think that sorghum and teff and millet would all get along? And where’s the rice flour? The spelt? The quinoa? It stuns me.

Anyway, this recipe was easy to mix and bake–a bit horrible to look at, but the phone call this morning proved what a powerful thing bread products are. “So good!” my friend said. “So… good!” They’ve been living bread-less for some time caused by major gluten allergies, and buying wheat-free products doesn’t fit well within their budget. It took a bit of a dent out of mine… 🙂

But what fun to make something that will help feed them for at least a few days. I handed over both loaves without trying the bread myself, and will bake another two tomorrow so that they can store some away in the freezer. And maybe I’ll try some of the teff peanut butter cookies just for the fun of it. Or the millet crackers… Anyway, here are some photos to give you an idea of the strangeness of this concoction.

Gluten-free batter before the rise

Gluten-free batter after an hour rise

ME's Gluten-Free, Vegan Bread, (which needs a new name, in my humble opinion) Baked

So, please share this post with folks who are struggling to find a good, no dairy, wheatless bread. Apparently it’s yummy. And if any of you happen to know Mark Engelberg, please tell him I’m looking for him. His story of kitchen creativity is one I’d like to hear…

And I have some ideas for a new bread name.

Xantapmillsorteffcopo Bread anyone?

For those of you with more time on your hands…

  • The word gluten really rolls around in your mouth, doesn’t it? With the “glu” reminding us of “glue” it doesn’t present that lovely of an image when you’re thinking about foodstuff…
  • I had to amend the recipe a bit because the color on the bread was frightful! I really was scared… They say to put foil over the bread after ten minutes of baking but I pulled it off because of the horrid color that was developing. I punched the oven up to 450 near the end of the bake and finally was able to get a bit of color–and I don’t think I dried out the bread. Though, I never did taste it, so who knows?!!!
  • Sorghum is a type of grass that is used for its grain, also for fodder, and a variety of other things. I mean, a lot of other uses. There’s a type of molasses made from it, and in India they make biofuels from it, and in China they make a liquor called maotai… I’ve never tried maotai, have you?
  • Teff is a species of lovegrass 🙂
  • There’s a foxtail millet, pearl millet, barnyard millet, guinea millet, little millet, browntop millet, Japanese millet, but where’s the Mark Engelberg millet? I mean, really…
  • Xanthan gum is a rheology modifier. Just thought you’d want to know.

People Who Inspire Me: Olympians

Two loaves of molasses bread (see link to recipe below)

Mixed: 2:45 pm

Molded: 4:45 pm

Baked: 5:25 pm

Gave to a family who runs the race–and hard…

Some of you may know that I was a gymnast as a young girl. I trained for many years. Five or six days a week, four or more hours each day. I stretched, strengthened, and flew my body around daily, and loved it. I also learned lessons about pain, about finding strength when you thought you had none, about staying dedicated and being determined.

The Winter Games are in Vancouver and I’m inspired. These athletes who have given themselves to sport inspire me to give of myself at the next level. Not just give bread, though that’s certainly become part of my daily life… But especially to give more light than dark. Light, not dark. That’s really my deepest quest. It’s the way I, with my aged body and sometimes failing brain, can remain an athlete for years and years, even past the days when I’ll be able to kick up into a handstand like you see above…

Have you ever noticed that sometimes, when you’re at the end of your strength, the most light and clarity about life is shed? I recently needed to find peace during a dark moment–and my body was clogged with food, my heart felt heavy, and my head was spinning. I took off running, something I typically despise, but three miles later had found immense relief and a clear vision of what to do. Think about past times when you’ve been severely ill, or have run a long race, a marathon even, or when you’ve fasted from food, or dedicated yourself to a long stint of prayer. If we look at the athlete, we know that he won’t skate to the finish line swiftly if he hasn’t broken down his mind and body in training so that it might eventually be built stronger. The very struggle and fatigue helps us find a hidden strength, energy, and vigor that can only come with giving all of yourself over to that pursuit. As a Christian, I know that I am at my best when I break down all of the Me-Barriers and allow God to flow freely through my stubborn head and cluttered heart. At my weakest, because of the struggle, I hit my peak.

So, here we are with no cable and no ability to watch the Winter Olympic Games! In general, we’re not much for the television. But I’m in the mood to be inspired…  I dropped an Olympics hint earlier today and my husband ran with it.

So, don’t tell the kids, but the cable dudes are on the way. We’ll call again after Closing Ceremonies and cancel our subscription. But in the meantime,  I’m hoping to mix, mold and bake many batches of bread…

…during commercials.

Ooh, ooh, and before I go.

I spotted the very recipe that I use for making molasses bread at this website! Yay!!! This is a wonderful recipe from Rabbit Hill Inn in Vermont–a loaf of brown delight that gets gobbled up by even the per-snicketiest sort of bread people… Most times I switch out a cup of the white bread flour for a cup of whole wheat. And sometimes I leave the butter out… Enjoy!

It’s Not About the Words…

Two loaves–one strictly sourdough, the other a loaf of sour made with Telegraph brown ale

Mixed: 9:30 pm

Molded: 3 pm next day

Baked: 5: 30 pm

Gave to folks who used to be next-door neighbors but who moved down the block

Last weekend when so many women filled my home for our baking extravaganza, one friend asked, “So, what do you say, exactly, when you give the loaf of bread away?” I wasn’t sure what she was getting at by the question; it caught me off guard. “I say…” I told her, ‘I baked an extra loaf of bread today and want you to have it.” She looked at me for a moment. I could imagine she was thinking, and that’s it?

Her question made me question myself. Should I be saying more? But as we chatted on for another few minutes, my original reasons for starting this experiment flooded back to me. I explained that it’s the act of giving that to me is so important in what I’m trying to do–not my words. That I’m not trying to make this bread giving into more than it is. I don’t attach a note that explains about the blog; I don’t recite a Bible verse about feeding the poor; I don’t really want to say much at all. I just want to do–to give.

Since so much of my world is made up of words, this act of doing–of giving without an attached explanation or agenda–is important to me. I want the bread to carry its own quiet message. I want people to simply receive the bread as a very small token of love–or of food–or of neighborly niceness. Whatever meaning happens to come across to them.

It was late yesterday when I walked out the front door with the hot loaf of sourdough. Really late. 7 pm–past most dinner times. I didn’t have a destination for the bread, and it was cold. So I wrapped my favorite green scarf around my neck, put on my boots and coat and headed into the dark.

First I made my way, click-clacking in my boots, toward State Street. Ever since Christmas Eve when the Thomas kids showed up on our doorstep with the most delicious plate of shortbread, I’ve been wanting to bring them bread, but when I saw the house lit, and the dining table fit with laptops and not dinner plates, I decided I was too late there.

A car door slammed around the corner. I thought perhaps I could intercept someone in the street and offer them the loaf, so I backpeddled, turning the corner, looking through the dark to see what I could see. The street was quiet. Whoever it was had already found refuge inside.

So I walked toward the mountains, peeking in at the windows of my neighbors, some I still haven’t met after ten years of being here, praying for an idea. As I rounded another corner I thought of our prior next-door neighbors, who had moved about a year ago. They remodeled the tiniest little house that has a big window which faces the street. Though they’re rarely home, you can usually see their cat sitting at floor level, right in the middle of that window, watching the world go by. The lights were on. My hands were cold.

Christine answered.

“Christine, I haven’t seen you in so long!'” I said, smiling. “I was baking today and made an extra loaf of bread. I’m sure you’ve eaten–it’s so late, but I thought I’d bring it by anyway and maybe you can make French toast or something in the morning.” I handed her the bag.

“This is so perfect!” she gushed. “I’m making soup, and Scott’s working late and we will absolutely enjoy this! Thank you.”

I click-clacked home and was glad I found someone who hadn’t yet eaten. I was glad to see Christine again.

And that was it. No story, no speech, no flier about the blog. Just a very small token of love to an old acquaintance. I feel that that’s enough. That she’ll discover whatever message is meant to be there.

Meanwhile, I’ve got another batch of bread to mix. Love to you all! (…and those aren’t just words :))

A Community of Givers

Bread, bread, bread

Three loaves of pain a la Suzanne

14 French Jacos

30 some odd scones

Gave my loaf to Dr. David, who has been limping lately… The rest of the loaves? TBD

Today our women’s group at church gathered in my kitchen while I whirled around in a floury cloud. Bread was in and out of the oven–we would talk now and then about sourdough starter, or how to mold a boule… I had wanted the women to be able to mix dough themselves, too, that was planned for the middle hour, but you just can’t do it all. Next time, Ladies, or just give me a call and stop by!

In that middle time, when the oven was full of bread and my mixing and molding duties were temporarily done, I tried to highlight a few qualities in Saint Brigid that have inspired me–in the hope to inspire them. Brave and charitable, Saint Brigid was a woman who wasn’t afraid of breaking out of the mold. No nuns in Ireland? I’ll be the first. No abesses? Why not start my own monastery? No ground to build on? I’ll just ask the king and see what miracles happen. He could only say no. No bread? Let’s pray–God surely won’t leave us to be hungry. He clothes the lilies, doesn’t He? She was fiercely brave–an Irish heroine, who was so devoted to Christ that she saw His mark everywhere. In every beggar, in every beast, in every oak and ash and stalk of wheat.

As I looked around that room I saw whispers of Saint Brigid in all of them. In the playfulness of Jan, in the tenacity of Seraphima, in the creativity of the Carla’s, the leadership of Kristin and Wendy, and the tenderness of  Shirley. (And that’s just mentioning a few…) Brigid herself developed all these virtues by being wholly committed to Christ–the giver of Virtue, the giver of Life. I really didn’t need to give them an inspiring talk at all…They are already professional givers. They serve dinner to those ill, reach out to those who are lonely. They are women who are always behind the scenes making, baking, serving… giving…

We baked and baked–you can see by the schedule above– and when they left I handed them loaves to take to those they encounter–to give away as I’ve been seeking to do. I’m looking forward to their stories and hoping they’ll come here to share! So, this blog is to be written by them–can’t wait to hear how their afternoon adventures unfolded.


Ongoing Lesson #332–Just Ask

One little loaf of coconut chocolate bread

Baked on Wednesday

Just for me…

All week I’ve been wondering about myself. Last weekend was a douzy–as I baked enough bread to feed over 200 people. It was the first time I’ve ever taken on that level of production in my little home oven and though I had fun turning my kitchen into Command Central, the amount of flour and buttermilk and swirls with the wooden spoon almost did me in. No, the mixing wasn’t so bad, now that I look back, and the baking, with all those loaves piling up, was quite fun. It was the slicing. Hunched over the cutting board in the church kitchen, I was wishing desperately for one of those old fashioned electric slicers I used in high school when I worked at my dad’s bakery. There’s a lovely long silver lever that pulls open the blades. You place the bread in the back of the slicer, let go of the lever, pull a knob open in the front, and the machine noisily cuts thick or thin or somewhere-in-between slices in four fabulous seconds.

Last weekend, when I was sawing my way through loaf number 14 or so of the thick-crusted soda bread, I felt a blister develop on my right palm. God is so good. In walked my husband and I smiled, then handed over our dulling bread knife. Have at it, Oh, Mighty Husband of Mine! He slices bread beautifully…

Anyway, the day following the Big Bake I headed over to our church school and had an awesome time speaking to the kids about Saint Brigid and making crosses. They are precious little munchkins. A full day–but so fun.

But come Tuesday I was beat. I’d been baking and blogging like crazy all January, and still with one big event on the horizon–one more Saint Brigid baking adventure with thirty or so women from our church (tomorrow).

So, it didn’t surprise me too much, when late Tuesday night I mixed only one batch of bread for the next day’s bake. As I was quickly stirring the water into the flour, and coconut, and chocolate mix (something I’d been wanting to try all January but didn’t because it didn’t seem very fifth century!) I knew I was being stingy. I was full of yawns and sleepy thoughts, and yet, what excuse was that? I’m full of yawns most every night when I mix my next day’s bread. I was purposefully leaving my neighbor out of this. To be truthful, I didn’t much care.

This both surprised me, and didn’t. I can be contrary–even to myself. On the one hand, I know that writers, mothers, folks in general, all need seasons of breaks to regroup and catch their breath. With several big events sitting on the back side of my week, and another big event still to come, one measly loaf of bread seemed just fine in the middle. And yet…  I didn’t sign up to bake just for me. I didn’t.

So, I come to you a bit ashamed. I went dormant and bare, like the oak pictured above–that beautiful oak that we found in our snowy mountains only two weeks ago. But that snowy oak is supposed to be dormant and bare! Aha, there’s the catch. That snowy oak, despite his season of rest, still holds out his branches to the birds. So, the comparison isn’t even fair. He sticks to his purpose, season in and season out, and I don’t. He’s got a spirit of giving wrapped all around those beautiful bare branches, and my spirit of giving shriveled into one loaf of delicious, yet very selfish coconut chocolate bread baked just for me and those who sit daily around my table. (It figures chocolate would somehow figure into the equation!!!)

I hope I learned yet another lesson this week–to stick to the sharing plan, even when tired. I didn’t think I had the strength to mix another batch, to give yet another batch–and I probably didn’t. But we all know that there’s more strength to be had if we just ask.

Forgive me, Lord. I didn’t even ask.

Fifth Century–Signing Off

No bread (the twenty loaves sort of did me in!)–but made LOTS of crosses

What fun it’s been this last month dipping back in time to the world of Saint Brigid. The 400’s were a time of big change in Ireland and I’ve enjoyed all the added research, and trying my hand at baking with new ingredients (barley, oats, and brewer’s yeast) and using new methods (clay pots and dutch ovens).

To really celebrate the feast day of Saint Brigid I made crosses here at home with my daughter…

…and we played a little bit with the wheat heads…

…then headed over to the private school where my big kids used to attend: St. John’s Academy. After telling a classroom of students about Saint Brigid, and reading them her story, we made crosses of pipe cleaners for them to take home. We teamed big kids up with little ones, but it was new to everyone… They worked so hard! In fact, we worked so hard there was no one left to grab a camera and take shots. You should have heard the buzz of chatter, and seen the little fingers bending and the concentration in their eyes as they listened to my instructions. Beautiful.

I did get some photos of their crosses after the fact, sticking out of their backpacks, ready to go home and be hung over their doors so that they might think of Christ through all their comings and goings. We talked about how Saint Brigid used the cross to tell the dying chieftain the story of Christ’s life and death and resurrection, and also mentioned how the Irish place them over their front doors, near their roof, as protection from fire. Every child in that room has had his own experience of fright from fire these last two years, so we all agreed that it would be comforting to have an added reminder of God’s protection in our homes.

There was one little boy that I spotted in the midst of all the fun, who was paired with another munchkin who was struggling to bend and turn and shape with his hands. His cross was a bit of a pipe cleaner jumble. He looked depressed when he showed me the finished product as we packed up to leave.

So, today, I’ll pop back over to school at lunch time, a few pipe cleaners hidden in my purse, and we’ll make a new one while eating a pbj together. I think that’s what Saint Brigid would have done.

Don’t you?

Fifth Century–Loaves Multiplying

Twenty loaves of dark Irish soda bread

Mixed, molded and baked from 5 am -7:30 am

Fed 225 hungry church goers

In honor of Saint Brigid, our family, along with a close friend, hosted coffee hour at church. We decided we would serve dark Irish soda bread, tangerines, nuts, butter and creamed cheeses along with the coffee, tea and juice. At first I was planning on making about ten loaves.

But, after speaking with my friend, and learning we were meant to feed over 200 people, I revised my baking plan, bumping the number of loaves up to twelve.

The alarm clock sounded at 5am. I fell out of bed at 5:15. My fellow baker, my husband, who signed up as co-pilot the night before, didn’t stir. The first batch went in at 5:45–already behind schedule, and that’s when I noticed how very small a loaf of dark Irish soda bread really is…


The co-pilot stumbled into the kitchen at 6 am, looking sheepish. Did the alarm clock go off?


That’s when we had a pow wow about the amount of bread we were baking–how in the world we were to feed all the five thousand–and this prompted him to drive to the market in his PJ’s for more ingredients. I mixed furiously.

All through Saint Brigid’s life there are miracles recorded about how food was multiplied through her prayers. Butter overflowing their vats, milk spilling over the rim of the jugs, water turned into ale–these acts of God’s abundance helped feed, and sometimes heal, her poorer neighbors and show the mighty and merciful hand of the Christ she prayed to. I love this simple prayer. It makes the duties of the home so much more joyful:

O God, bless my pantry!

Pantry, which the Lord has blessed.

Mary’s Son, my friend,

Come and bless my pantry!”

So, with Saint Brigid in mind I mixed and baked, hoping that the now sixteen loaves I was baking would be enough. By 7 am everyone was awake, and the loaves were stacking up on the cooling rack.

I shifted and squeezed bread into all corners of the oven, and when we were finished, and dressed and ready to head out out the door, I counted the loaves as I placed them in brown paper bags. Twenty loaves.

Now, how did that happen?

A blessed Saint Brigid’s Day everyone!