For once and for all, I am determined to overcome my fear of yeast breads. See, I've been scarred by past experiences with bread that never rose, ingredients wasted, and dense, flat loaves of rock hard bread. Maybe for some this would be acceptable...to just give up, to never make homemade bread. But, I come from a long line of women who are beyond adept at yeast breads, women who produce buttery puffy rolls, homemade cinnamon rolls, and homemade Moravian Sugar Cakes that would make you swoon. And, given that I consider myself a cook, succumbing to this fear is just unacceptable.
On a recent trip back to North Carolina, my Mom took me into the kitchen for my third lesson on proofing yeast, and this one seemed to work. She taught me to add a pinch of sugar to the yeast before adding the "warm" water. The sugar gives the yeast something to feed on, speeding up the activation process. As she showed me how, I was surprised at how hot the water actually was. And since neither of us uses a thermometer to measure the water, its all about the touch. Many cookbooks talk about using warm water, or water the same temperature as a baby's bottle; but her water was hot to the touch.
And now that I'm adding the sugar and using what I would call hot water, I'm loving bread making for the first time in my life. There is nothing like the feeling of seeing the yeast and hot water mixture bubbling and puffing up. There is nothing like the smell of bread baking in the oven; and there's nothing like the taste of a warm slice of bread fresh from the oven, slathered in butter. This is the bread I made today - a simple white bread from The Fannie Farmer Cookbook.