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I Knead Bread . . . I Really Do

Irish Soda Bread for the Irish in me

Half & Half... whole wheat and white French bread with some semolina for added crunch

Bread is one of those necessities that I can't do without. I pay for it a little in the waistline but without bread there is no dipping into the white garlic sauce of a mussels dish or wiping clean the bottom of a salad bowl or boiled dandelions drizzled with olive oil. And then there's the wrap-in-any-hard-cheese-you-want sandwich which always hits the spot when you want just a quick hit of something. The Irish soda breads above are a yearly thing and we always finish one and freeze the other for a late spring or summer treat. The breads on the right are my favorite and I make them practically every other week. They freeze very well and the recipe is from Bernard Clayton's "Complete Book of Breads." It's his "Blue Ribbon" French bread. An easy loaf to make though you need a few tries to get them just right.

A little worn around the edges but invaluable

Mr. Clayton died in 2011 at the age of 94 but he left us with a treasure trove of bread lore and recipes. A former pencil press reporter (like me) he was smitten with the art of bread baking while bicycling through Europe with his wife, Marjorie in 1965. He turned his passion into a career and traveled the world looking for recipes. You can't go wrong with this bread book Bible. My copy is a little worn and dough-smeared in spots from overuse, but that's the way it should be with good cookbooks.

I've been baking bread now for close to 30 years give or take, and I am thoroughly spoiled (and so is the family). It takes a lot for me to buy some bread from the supermarket or even the local bakery. My wife, Debra, is the home baker of things sweet, like cookies and tarts. I'll bake an apple or blueberry pie once in a while but my thing is bread. From biscuits, to cinnamon raisin bread, to rolls and Greek specialty breads, I'm wrist deep in flour and dough just about every other week.

And thank you Mr. Clayton for leaving us with a whole lot of love.

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