19 November 2010

Bake to Pray

Fresh Baked Goodness

I love baking.  Like, deeply and passionately.  There is no room for Atkins in my life.  Whoever says that carbohydrates are bad for you is wrong << and should be promptly re-educated >>

Anything in excess is bad for you.  Everything in moderation is A.O.K. in my book.   If we’re honest, we’d probably all agree that fresh baked bread is both delicious and comforting << and what combination is better than this? >>.

Wonderful things go on around the act of baking.  Lives can change through the sharing of baked goods.  << I’m serious. >>  

Pumpkin goodness
Fresh loaves of bread both warm the kitchen and fill the space around it with delicious seasonal smells-- pumpkin and spices through the fall and winter; banana and apple in the spring and summer; French, sourdough, and even beer batter cheese bread smells come and go all year long in our house. 

The act of baking bread is both stimulating and engaging for all of our senses-- taste, smell, sight, sound, and touch  << Spiritually speaking, I’m most tuned in when all of my senses are engaged and stimulated >>.

Breaking bread together at a common table can bridge language and cultural gaps, as well as political, economic, and social barriers.  I’ve also learned after our recent adventure in Egypt that no culture’s baking skills should be underestimated << some new mothers say the sound of a baby crying causes their boobies to fill with milk… for me, the words “Middle Eastern desserts” causes me to drool >>.

Henri Nouwen says, "When we invite friends for a meal, we do much more than offer them food for their bodies.  We offer friendship, fellowship, good conversation, intimacy, and closeness.  When we say:  ‘Help yourself…take some more…don’t be shy…have another glass,’ we offer our guests not only our food and our drink but also ourselves.  A spiritual bond grows, and we become food and drink for one another."

We become food and drink for one another when we share a meal together.

A permanent supportive housing development for people emerging from chronic homelessness recently opened in our << church  and work >> neighborhood.  As a community, in a couple of weeks a group of us will spend an evening baking loaves of fresh bread together.  The following day we will deliver the loaves, with notes of welcome, to our new neighbors.  These are people who have lived roughshod lives of survival on the streets experiencing unimaginable pain, brokenness, and loss.  With hard work and community support, they have emerged from that life, overcoming obstacles in order to achieve stability and housing. 

As their neighbors, instead of fearing them we’re choosing to love them, and the first iteration of expressing that love is through prayer, clothed in the form of baking. 

Then we’ll present them with a baked offering and a warm word of welcome.
Opportunities like this inspire my passion for baking. 

My prayer is that in a couple of weeks we will build relationship with one another and get to know each other as we discover our “new normal” with this new housing development as it integrates into the fabric of our neighborhood.

Here’s a recipe for the good of the cause << it’s a staple in our house, year round >>:

Beer Batter Cheese Bread
8 oz cheese (4 oz shredded and 4 oz cubed)
3 C all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons of sugar
4 teaspoons of baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 teaspoon of pepper
1 (12 oz) light-bodied beer
1 - 2 tablespoons of melted butter

Oven at 375 degrees. Grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.

Combine ingredients from cheese to pepper (on list) << for the cheese I like to use a combination of Habanero Cheddar and regular Cheddar; Gruyere is also really good, but that’s not one we keep around the house regularly >>, then mix together with beer << I like to use a light to medium beer- Blue Moon and Yuengling have both made yummy, hoppy breads >>. Spread into loaf pan so batter is even; then drizzle evenly with melted butter.

Bake for 45 - 50 mins << the loaf should come out craggy and delicious... see below >>

Beer Batter Cheese Bread
If you’re bold and daring and like to experiment, here's an option that might just make you pee your pants: use smoked Gouda for the cheese, and mix in 8 slices of crispy, crumbled, cooked BACON.

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