“What are you doing grandma?” asked 10-year-old Jessica.
“I’m making bread, sweetie - from scratch.”
Lillian laughed sweetly and rubbed her granddaughter’s head, careful not to get flour on her short auburn curls.
“Scratch is when you start at the very beginning of something. When I make bread, I start with water and yeast; then I add flour to make the dough. After it’s risen several times, it goes into the oven to bake. Would you like to help?”
Jessica listened intently, fascinated by her grandmother’s explanation.
“Sure. I guess. But it seems like a waste of time when you can just use the bread we buy at the store.”
“You’re probably right, Jessie. It is easier to buy it already baked and sliced. But, well - there’s a lot to be said for working with your hands with someone you love by your side. And there’s nothing like eating a slice of home-made bread, hot from the oven, smothered with melting butter. And the smell - well -
Jessica washed her hands and put on an apron as Lillian directed.
“OK. First we put some warm water into a bowl with the yeast. The heat of the water will activate the yeast so the dough will grow in size as it processes. Next comes the flour mixed with a bit of sugar and salt, and two tablespoons of shortening. Here’s a measuring spoon.
You know, Jessie, people in Jesus’ time, made a type of bread from scratch but it was flat because they didn’t use yeast.”
Lillian let Jessica mix the last of the flour into the bowl until the sides of the bowl were clean. Both of them were soon speckled and smudged with white remnants of the flour, and laughing at how funny they looked.
“Now, we’ll cover it with this dish towel and let is rest for a few minutes. We’ve got time enough to do some clean up.”
About fifteen minutes later, Lillian showed Jessica how to knead the dough.
“That’s right. Now, use the palm of your hand and rock just a little, like this.”
Jessica laughed as her grandmother rocked back and forth, and giggled when she tried it herself.
“This is fun, grandma.”
“I’m glad you’re enjoying yourself, honey. Remember, each time you knead with your fingers to push the air out, you have to turn the dough and fold it. Then you knead it again. That‘s great.”
Jessica’s fingers and hands pushed and flattened while they talked about family and school and church, and the time passed quickly. At first the dough seemed sticky, but before long her hands fell into a rhythm and the dough began to feel elastic just like her grandmother said it would.
It was amazing to Jessica to see the dough double in size, but most of all she enjoyed it when she got to punch it down flat, just to watch it rise to double it’s size again. Finally, they shaped the loaves and left them rise one last time in the bread pans. Jessica fidgeted with excitement.
During the half hour of cooking, Lillian and Jessie savored the smell of the baking bread filling the kitchen. They drank hot chocolate and tried to be patient while they watched the clock.
At last the timer rang and out of the oven came two perfectly shaped loaves of bread. Jessica couldn’t help herself. She leaned close and sniffed in the sweet aroma. When she looked at her grandmother, they both smiled with pride and anticipation.
“Get the butter, Jessie. I’ll get a knife and you and I will have a taste of our labors.”
Lillian sliced the bread slowly while Jessie watched the steam escape. Then they each buttered their own slice and sat down at the table. Lillian gave thanks to God and then, simultaneously, they took their first bite.
Jessica had never thought much about the taste of bread before, but THIS bread was indeed special. With butter dripping off her chin and fingers, she felt blessed to have a grandmother who loved her enough to teach her to bake bread with her own hands.
“Thanks grandma for letting me help. I love you so much. Can we do it from scratch again … soon?”
“Of course we can Jessie. But next time, you’re going to do most of the work. After all … now, you’re practically an expert yourself.”
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