Butter :: Recipe

Bread and Butter.

Even in the home of a baker, where the bread was good enough to eat without any embellishments, we always had butter on the counter, soft, ready for spreading.

My dad would come home from the bakery with an armload of fresh baguettes, or a beautiful sourdough jaco, or maybe on occasion some kaiser rolls. The bread always went straight to the kitchen counter that separated the breakfast nook from the cooking area. We didn’t use bread knives, just tore off pieces as my mom was making spaghetti, or a turkey soup was slowly boiling. Every evening before dinner this happened, for as long as I can remember, and the bread was never eaten without butter. Spread thinly, sometimes not so thinly, I once questioned my dad about butter, knowing the bread could stand alone. He just laughed. It enhances all of it, Janie. The flavors, the wheat and the salt and the starter… What would bread be without butter?

Knowing what I know now, not only is bread better with butter from a taste standpoint, but mixing those carbs and fats are better for us as well. Butter is good for you! Haven’t you heard?!!!

Anyway, on this eve of Saint Brigid’s feast, we are making up a little bit of butter just for the fun of it. We already have some in the fridge, but in memory of a beloved and faithful dairymaid, we are butter churners tonight.

Here’s how you do it :

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Find a cute small jar with a lid.

Add the heavy cream–not too full–only half–so that there’s room for shaking. Just cream, nothing else.

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Shake–with or without music–with or without cousins… (My drama girl is always up for shaking…)

20 minutes (or less) of shaking. Shake, shake, shake! (At some point you will feel like nothing in there is moving, that’s because you  have now made whipped cream! Just keep shaking, trade off between little ones and grown ups so it’s not a chore, and some bit of time after this you will hear that the butter has separated. You can shake some after this, we do, but I’m not sure it’s really necessary…)

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And you have butter, and a wee bit of buttermilk, too. Strain off the buttermilk to use, or drink, (do NOT pour it down the drain; it’s too delicious) and enjoy  the wonderful fruits of your shaking!

Here’s an excerpt from The Life of Saint Brigid--Brigid, a woman of Christ whom I long to emulate!

Brigid saw Christ in everyone she met, and had a particular love for those less fortunate than herself.

When the poor came knocking at the kitchen doors, Brigid handed out loaves of bread, jars of butter and jugs of milk.

With her heart and hands opened wide, she even gave away the food meant for the chieftain himself!

Cheers, dear friends. Enjoy a moment of dairy-maiding!

Pray for us, Holy Brigid

Illustration from "The Life of Saint Brigid"

Illustration from “The Life of Saint Brigid”

In years past I have spent the week before the feast of Saint Brigid preparing for a big party that we have with family and friends here at our home. We typically invite different people every year, and do lots of Irish-like things: eating beef stew, drinking ale, mixing up batches of soda bread, weaving crosses and the like. It is such fun.

This year, we are simply asking for prayer. Our house has been overtaken by the flu–with children coughing and waylaid by fevers, with mamas making chicken soup, and grandmas calling every few minutes to see if we need anything from the store.

By the eve of the feast, Thursday, we may just be well enough to weave a cross. I’m hopeful! And if we are feeling especially energetic, I’m wanting to make homemade butter, just for the fun of it. Saint Brigid was a dairymaid and I think bread and butter sounds pretty good right about now.

And on Friday, February first, we have our house blessing scheduled, but the party will be a small one, I’m afraid. Just us and the priest and his wife, singing our hearts out, asking Saint John the Baptist and Saint Brigid to team up on that day, follow us about our home as the holy water finds its way north-south-east-west, and humbly intercede for us.

This is a good reminder for me–to release the hold of past expectations and simply follow the needs of the moment. I have decided not to be disappointed by the turn of events, but to allow space for the prayer, and the healing, and maybe, just maybe, a little butter will be made.

Enjoy the feast, everyone!

Flab.ber.gas.ted

— flab·ber·gas-ted

affected with sudden and great wonder or surprise; adj.

I just love that word, flabbergasted. The person who made up that word must have been such a character! Just bump it around in your mouth… flabbergasted!

Anywho. I baked up some delicious whole grain sourdough rye last week… during a long business call. The oven would ding, and I’d make sure the callers didn’t need my input. I’d RACE, high speed into the kitchen, twenty miles an hour at least, and tug open that oven door and do what was needed. IN goes the bread, OFF come the pot lids, OUT comes the bread. That phone call just kept going on and on, and I’d say I was productive both on and off the phone!

hee hee

The bread done, and chores needing tending to, I spied my husband out front and brought him that extra loaf of gorgeous bread. Give it away, will you?  He was watering the kale and the favas. I put the bread in a red paper gift bag on the front porch. We just missed the old man with the chihuahua, he relayed back. I shrugged. My husband was a doer and he’d find a good home for that loaf of rye.

From the new bunnies (gotta show you some pictures but my poor —lousy— I’m-calling-it-names-camera is ailing), to the bills, to the dishes, to the Christmas cards (which I just started writing!), I forgot all about the bread giving. But later in the evening I got the story.

Tom, one of our favorite neighbors that we only see now and again, came a walkin’ by, and my husband asked him if he ate bread. (That seems to be my new first question, since so many in our parts are trying to do without wheat.) Tom said yes, and so the bread was snagged from the porch, presented to Tom, and that’s when the word flabbergasted seems to have been uttered. Flabbergasted. Tom was flabbergasted that we would give him a loaf of beautiful bread.

And I’m flabbergasted that we don’t give beautiful bread to one another more often! We should. Why not share in these small ways, with one another, with the folks we know just a little, but could know a little bit more.

Because without today’s giving, the word flabbergasted never would have been uttered. And that would be a shame, I believe.

Cheers to you all!

On Camera

So….

Back in December a young photographer at church approached me, full of questions about my bread baking and giving. What is it all about, why do I do it, how often do I bake, what have I learned? He listened intently, and then asked if he could make a short movie about the topic. I hesitated, then said yes.

I despise being in front of the camera. Mostly because I am sinful, and vain, and see myself as less beautiful than I would like to be. Growing up in Southern California, surrounded by beautiful people–everywhere–it’s an easy trap to tumble into. That is a very honest answer coming straight from my heart. So, knowing my struggles, I said yes. I said yes to help combat a vanity that has no place near the realm of giving from the heart. And I said yes because this experiment isn’t only about me and my (hopeful) personal transformation. It’s about sharing with others and hoping they might somehow be a little transformed, too…

Matt came by and zoomed two cameras my way. I cuddled into a chair and started to talk. He asked question after question and I settled into speaking and sharing, aware of my nerves, enjoying my enthusiasm, and especially pleased with how the light was streaming through the front window, comforting me…

And then we baked. We spent the entire day together–cameras clicking, adjusting lenses and rolling out dough, shifting piles of junk around so they weren’t in the frame, revealing more and more of the story and the process of baking bread.

And here’s the result!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQZOejtAWbI&feature=youtu.be&hd=1

 

 

This is Matt’s work, Matt’s idea, and we’ll see what sort of journey this video embarks upon. I’ll be telling you a bit more about Matt Roberts, too, in a future post, but for now, it’s back to baking, folks!

 

 

Celebrating a Sister-in-Law

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When I started baking several years ago, a few of my sister-in-laws were curious. Over these many years of family trips back and forth between here and there (eight hours by car–Santa Barbara to Scottsdale) we have talked more than a bit about bread, we have baked together, and broken many a loaf together as families do…

Fast forward a couple of years and now these girls bake for their families, their friends, and even bake for me! During our family’s last trip to Arizona, without any prompting from my corner, I spied one sister-in-law baking three times over seven days! I didn’t say much–not wanting to scare her out of the habit, but, WoW!

I’m so thrilled that this habit caught on and that she’s finding meaning in doing something the Slow way, and offering her family

food made with two hands

and lots and lots of love.

 

Friends

2013 is off to a wonderful start!  We returned home, from time in Arizona with family, and jumped straight in to celebrating one of my favorite days of the year: Theophany. Do you love Theophany too? All the water, and the splashing, and the rejoicing with creation?

In Santa Barbara, we bundle off to the beach each year and sing, and the little ones splash into the waves after the cross. It’s always a day of joy! And sandwiches.

This year there was a downpour, so the crowd was a bit thinner, but I came prepared, wrapped in my Irish wool cape, complete with hood. (A definite Saint Brigid moment…) My husband found a neighboring umbrella, and my little one licked the raindrops off his lips. Lots of people were getting soaked. And then the Gospel was read–and the clouds parted–and the sun came out–and the rain stopped! No joke. The photographer for our local newspaper caught the moment as we all laughed and marveled.

Sandwiches came next, and to my delight I was then presented a gift. Several friends had been conspiring over the holidays and they stood around and told me to open the gift–right then.

First the card

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Which was so sweet. Then the wrapped box, which revealed this! A beautiful cast iron, prosphoron baking pan!

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(And only the day before I had opened another card and gift, from another very special friend.

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I do feel loved. )

So now I have a very special baking pan for the communion bread I make for the church. Do you remember when I mentioned this a while back when I posted my recipe for prosphoron?

But more than a pan, I have confirmation in how love travels, person to person. Whatever it is you are giving, whether it’s bread, or a baking pan, or a trip to the moon, what matters most is the friend.

Thank you, my dear friends…

Kate, Seraphima, Joanne, Judy, Carla, Obadiah, Sara, Kristi, Father Nicholas, and Kh Tammy…

Ending the Old Year :: Beginning the New

Happy New Year, dear friends! Another new beginning is here, and I would like to wish you a year filled with joy, love, peace, and many meaningful moments.

Because we are away from home, and away from my oven and oven mitts, I thought I’d give you a quick glimpse into yesterday and today–a bit of life away from baking. We’ve been showered with blessings and are so grateful for these slow days of celebrating and being with family.

We ended the old year at the monastery.

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Everyone dressed for the day, hopped in the car, and we traveled to Saint Anthony’s, which is a vast Greek monastery set among the saguaros in Arizona. We went in search of a blessing, and found just what we were seeking. It was a lovely time of peace, prayer and reflection.

Then off to another sort of vast. A family party, populated by many little ones, mid-sized ones, and grown-ups like myself. We had ribs at 8pm and fireworks at 9. And I put the little one to bed shortly thereafter. Reports are that the big kids stayed up until midnight and beyond. Good for them, I say!!!

This morning has meant green tea, Greek yogurt, and two of those wonderful homemade powdered sugar cookie delights that one encounters this time of year. Butter, flour, walnuts. Yum…

Mid-morning was a trip to a friend’s horse ranch.

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We rambled around the many, many stalls. Rubbed the belly of an extremely friendly and pregnant horse mama. Giggled at a miniature donkey, Allie, who was being spunky, and we were herded by the ranch dogs. Good mid-morning fun.

And soon I will be off with 12 others to see Les Miserables. I’m wondering now why I put on a touch of eye makeup this morning. I’m such a baby when it comes to anything with a tinge of sorrow, or that shows children who suffer. I’ll be bawling my head off.

And before we return home, I’m hoping to gather some of the teens and adults and make snowflakes in honor of Sandy Hook elementary school.

Want to join me? It seems like a wonderful way to kick off this new year by creating something beautiful in memory of their little ones. I will share photos of our snowflakes and would love to see yours!

Cheers, dear friends!