Baking bread (and creating memories)

A while ago, my mom thought up the idea for us to bake bread together sometime during my Christmas break. She then also thought to invite my Aunt Janet and her two daughters, Gillian and Catherine, since they would be in the area around the holidays. What my mom wanted to bake in particular were “Gammy’s rolls.” My grandmother (Gammy) was famous for her rolls. They were present at every holiday dinner when I was growing up- and I can still remember exactly how they tasted. It’s been a long time since I’ve had them, though.

Mom and Aunt Janet, yakkin' away.

My mom and my Aunt Janet have been best friends since they met in Kindergarten back in the late 1950s. They married brothers, which is how my Aunt Janet came to be “Aunt” Janet. Sometime ago, Gammy taught my mom and Aunt Janet how to make her rolls. I know that my mom has made them in the past, but I don’t remember that happening very often. Aunt Janet, on the other hand, is a bread-baking machine. She makes all kinds of breads and has always used whole grains (even way back before whole grains were cool) and all kinds of nuts and seeds. It’s funny- I remember very clearly eating a sandwich at her house when I was a kid that was on oat bread. I thought the bread tasted “funny” because it wasn’t the Wonder bread that I was used to. Aunt Janet always made her own peanut butter, had fresh goats milk (from the goats on her farm) and bought bulk ingredients from the co-op that I shop at today. She was so ahead of her time. šŸ™‚

Anyway. We all got together at my mom’s house this morning and got to work. As I’ve said many times on this blog- I am not a baker. I don’t have the patience for it and don’t like to be precise and measure ingredients. But, as my Aunt said, you don’t have to be so “perfect” when making bread. She brought along a few different types of flours, grains, seeds, and even bulk yeast from the co-op.

The rolls require a ‘double rise,’ so they took a long time to make. We got started on those first.

Here’s the recipe for the rolls- written in Gammy’s handwriting with notes added by my mom. I would recognize both handwriting styles anywhere.

We put on aprons (I got to wear the one my mom bought me for Christmas!)

Aunt Janet’s actually belonged to her mom – from when she was a baby!

Ingredients were added into a bowl

And mixed in the old Kitchenaid

You have to add the flour gradually- and it still makes a mess. šŸ™‚

Then we took turns kneading the dough

And then the dough was placed in a bowl and covered so it could rise.

Gillian got to work on making some bagels

How cute is her haircut?! I want my hair to look like that so badly- but just can’t bring myself to take the plunge!

She makes bagels at home all the time and knows the recipe by heart. She quickly shaped them, boiled them, and baked them.

I have to admit- I’m not much of a bagel eater- but these would make me change my mind!

Aunt Janet also made a Russian black bread (tell me if I’m wrong about the name, Gil), which had rye flour, coffee, cocoa powder, and other ingredients.

Gil made some nice cuts in it and dusted the bottom with cornmeal and left it covered to rise:

After the dough for the rolls had risen, it had to be kneaded again and left to rise for a second time. This was apparently Gammy’s secret for amazing taste and texture. (We even did a taste test with single vs. double rise- there is a difference!)

We took a break to eat lunch while waiting for the dough to rise. My mom had made delicious bean soup, which we enjoyed with homemade hummus, bagels, veggies, and other things. I definitely ate more than what is pictured here- including a few Christmas cookies (my weakness!!!!).

After lunch, my mom went to grab the dough to see if it was ready. I’d say so!

Yeast is an amazing thing, isn’t it? šŸ™‚

We filled a million (okay, maybe like 7 or 8) pans with rolls. I decided to make little rolls, and one little crescent-shaped roll. šŸ™‚

I must note that there is also an art form to making the perfect shape for your roll, which Aunt Janet taught us.

We also baked the Russian black bread, which had apparently risen for too long and lost it’s pretty shape- but who cares. It tasted good anyway!

And the rolls started coming out of the oven shortly afterwards.

Everything smelled and tasted so good! Not exactly like Gammy’s- I guess she was the only one that could make them just like hers.

I don’t know if I see much bread-baking in my future- but- the Vitamix apparently makes it a bit easier. So we’ll see. Regardless, it was great to spend the day with my family and share stories and laughter and good food.

And now I’ve got a ton of bread to eat. šŸ™‚

Do you bake your own bread? What type(s) do you make?

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12 Comments on “Baking bread (and creating memories)”

  1. Lee says:

    I’ve always been scared to make bread. I’m not much of a baker either. I have a tendency to substitute ingredients too often.

  2. Sarah says:

    I’ve made plenty of quick breads (banana, zucchini, pumpkin) but never any breads involving yeast. I don’t have the patience to wait for dough to rise…

    Looks like you had a fun afternoon with your family šŸ™‚ I love that your mother and her BFF married brothers.

  3. Gil says:

    Im so full of delicious bread! We did good šŸ™‚
    I’ll email you that black bread recipe.

  4. How fun! I don’t bake bread, but my Mom does all the time! I need to bake more often.

  5. What a perfect day. I wish my mom was into baking. I think it would make a great holiday (or any day) tradition. The final rolls look incredible and I’m so impressed by Gillian’s bagels. I’ve made bagels once and swore I’d never do it again (they are such a pain for something that costs $1 to buy!).

    • Lauren says:

      I know! She said she had to learn to bake them because she lived in China for while and bagels were nowhere to be find there. She has truly mastered the art and whipped them up in minutes!

  6. How fun!!
    I am so not a baker, but I want to try one day to make my own bread or rolls!!

  7. Sara R. says:

    I’d love to have someone to show me how to bake bread! I’ve been trying for years to figure it out on my own and it’s tough, especially when you’re making 100% whole grain loaves! What a fun activity!

  8. […] topped with some “Mozzarella” Rice Shreds and a teeny little roll leftover from my bread-baking day. To drink, I had a glass of Celestial Seasonings Cherry Berry brewed tea. I love that […]

  9. […] but the idea of making granola always seemed daunting to me. It’s one of those things (like baking bread)Ā  that I would rather just buy from the store. And really, it is completely silly that I would put […]


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