It’s an interesting phenomenon. When snow and ice loom in the weather forecast, milk and bread disappear from grocery store shelves. Why is that? Do people only eat French toast during blizzards?
I’ll admit, I was among the crowd at Publix preparing for our South Carolina snow days. However, I stocked up on comfort foods—chicken to roast, potatoes to make into soup, wine and chocolate. These, to me, are snow day essentials.
There wasn’t a loaf of bread in my cart.
After all, why would I buy bread when I have my own Swiss baker at home?
It’s one of my wisest decisions, marrying a man who bakes bread.
When the wind is nasty and the roads are closed due to the inch of ice that no one can navigate, including the Swiss and Chicago natives, there’s nothing nicer than building a fire, snuggling under the duvet, and lounging in pajamas, while the aroma of baking bread fills the house. Is it the combination of smoke from the fire and anticipation of warm slices of buttery goodness that makes snow days so special? I’m not sure. But I love them.
Many of my friends bake bread, but it’s something I’ve left to Peter. I like to bake, but I don’t interfere when he pulls out the flour.
Have you eaten Swiss bread? It’s exquisite. Crusty, dense, hearty. Add a touch of butter and a sprinkle of salt to the warm slice. That's all you need. No American should interfere with a man and his Swiss bread baking skills. We can provide support. We can keep an eye on the timer, set out the trivets, or help clean up. But we should never, never interfere with a Swiss and his bread.
Our internment lasted four days. With an inch of ice and an inch of snow, the schools closed Friday and Monday, and we never left the house. Well, actually—that’s not true. By Monday, our area was clear and dry. Peter went back to work. After all, customers needed their warps, and he needed to run the company to keep clients happy. By Tuesday, after a two-hour delay, the kids headed back to school. The snow days were over, and the Sunday bread a happy memory.
Today, it’s 66 degrees.
It’s amazing that one week after our snowy retreat, I’m working in the garden and shuttling Kristen to riding lessons. Soon, seeds will sprout in the greenhouse. The promise of spring fills the air.
But for so many of you, particularly those of you in the northeast like my friend Diane, who is finally digging out from last week’s blizzard, or my midwestern friends in the path of a major storm system predicted to turn into blizzard conditions, I’ve decided you need this:
Peter’s recipe for Sunday bread.
Search deep into your family tree. Surely, there’s some Swiss blood buried deep in your DNA. Even if you can’t read the recipe in its original form, my kind bread baker gives you his rough translation so that you, too, can relish your snow days with the aroma of baking bread.
2 lbs. (7-1/4 cups) All-Purpose Flour (two normal-sized loaves or one large bread), plus extra for rolling
1 tbsp. salt, scant
1/4 oz. packet dry yeast
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
6.5 dl milk (2-3/4 cups), warmed in microwave
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tbsp. Crisco oil
In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt, and yeast.
Pour milk into a bowl and warm in microwave.
Add milk and softened butter to dry mix.
Mix well, using the dough attachment on a stand mixer.
Cover mixing bowl with a damp towel and allow dough to rise for several hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Remove dough from bowl and place on a well-floured surface.
Cut dough into two equal sections.
Spread flour on a cookie sheet or baking stone. Roll dough into two "ropes" and braid on the cookie sheet.
Combine egg yolk with oil, whisking well. Using a pastry brush, lightly spread the glaze over the dough. (This will give your bread a pretty shine.)
Bake for approximately 50 minutes.
Allow to cool—keep greedy hands away from the bread! Some people will cut off the end before it’s really ready, because the smell makes them crazy.
If I could advise all young women considering a lifelong commitment that involves extended periods of togetherness due to snow storms, I’d tell them this: marry a man who will happily create beauty and comfort out of flour, milk, and yeast. And in fairness, I’d give this advice to all couples considering spending their years together: make certain one of you loves baking bread. The other partner will be eternally grateful, and you’ll both benefit from the comfort and sense of home a loaf of baking bread creates.
Plus, you’ll never need to battle the Publix crowds pre-blizzard again.