You know the feeling don't you, when someone goes to the trouble to make you food? I can really think of few emotions that overwhelm me quite like the ones I feel when someone goes to the effort to care for me in that way.
Making someone a meal is an act both simple and profound. Its a way of recognizing each other on a basic, beautiful and fundamental level. Its a way of saying, "I see you and I care that you are hungry". Hunger can take many shapes and can define many emotions and needs. When you feed someone, anyone, you meet those needs, physical, mental and spiritual.
For over 20 years King Arthur Flour has been traveling all around the country teaching children how to Bake for Good with their Life Skills Bread Baking Program and how to share their efforts with those in need. Meeting needs. So when King Arthur Flour, reached out and asked me to join their Bake For Good Tour in Seattle, I jumped at the chance. This month they met up with bloggers in Seattle, Minneapolis and Los Angeles to further promote their fantastic program and encourage others to think about how they can Bake for Good.
I have always been a fan of King Arthur Flour, but to know that they have been giving back to communities around the U.S. in such a meaningful way, for such a long time, increased my admiration and appreciation tenfold.
Our weekend began in the classroom at the Le Cordon Bleu-Seattle campus where we learned from pastry chef Amber Eisler about the finer points of bread and pie dough making. After a morning of instruction we got to work, baking loaves of bread and pies to take with us on our visit the following day to the Union Gospel Mission Women's and Children's Shelter. It was a fantastic experience learning from Amber and working alongside fellow bloggers, all intent on baking our hearts out. Our King Arthur Flour hosts, Julia and Natasha were kind, supportive and took especially good care of us.
The following day was spent at a commercial kitchen in downtown Seattle, prepping our meal to take along with the bread and pies to the Union Gospel Mission that evening. Chicken, macaroni and cheese, vegetables and salad were prepped then loaded for the short journey across town.
Upon arriving at the Union Gospel Mission we were given a tour by the director of the facility and began setting up for serving our meal. The work done at the Union Gospel Mission is truly wonderful, and they do a phenomenal job of providing a safe, nurturing environment for moms and kids. It was a privilege to see the staff there, in action and to meet the residents and learn a bit about them and their families.
While at the mission I was reminded frequently about how easily hardships can and do befall many of us, the loss of a job, a sick family member or an abusive home situation. Whatever the reason or however it happens there are needs, all around.
Throughout the weekend we were encouraged to think about ways that we could continue to Bake for Good in our own communities. How often, it's through the simple ways that we can provide that extra bit of comfort, care and support.
I strongly encourage you to think of ways you can Bake for Good in your community. It doesn't take much. You can reach out to a neighbor who you know to be struggling or if you don't know of anyone immediately in need in your neighborhood, contact your community soup kitchen, or food bank. I know of several programs in my own town that are in constant need of donated baked goods and meals etc.
After we had finished serving and cleaning up we headed back to our hotel and said our goodbyes. I was struck by how quickly the weekend went and while physically tired, on an emotional level I felt rejuvenated and inspired. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet other local area bloggers and participate in such a worthwhile event. It was a great reminder that small acts of kindness and comfort can and do have a big impact. No act is too small and everyone no matter what their resources; money or time, can give and make a difference.
The great ladies I met and had the privilege to serve with:
Melissa from Lulu the Baker
Peabody from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody
Coryanne from Kitchen Living with Coryanne
Megan from Not Martha
Jenny from Jenny on the Spot
Megan from Country Cleaver
Throughout the course of the weekend, I thought repeatedly of my grandmothers and the way they cooked and baked for others. This Swedish cardamom braid similar to one my maternal grandmother would often make came to mind, and I thought it would be a perfect recipe for me to share with you.
The recipe for the bread loaves we created to take to the mission (above), can be found here, at King Arthur Flour. Head on over and check out their wonderful recipes and products.
Swedish Cardamom Braid
Makes 3 loaves
2 packages or 4 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast
1/2 C. warm water, 105 degrees F.
1 1/2 C. whole milk ( you can also use evaporated)
1 C. sugar
2 1/2 tsp. salt
2-3 T. freshly ground cardamom
4 eggs, at room temp
7 or 8 cups King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
1/2 C. melted butter at room temp.
Glaze and topping:
1 egg, beaten
1 T. light cream or milk
1/4 C. Swedish Pearl Sugar
1/2 C. sliced almonds, if desired
In a large mixing bowl, add the yeast and the warm water. Let sit for 5 minutes while you heat the milk.
In a small saucepan heat the milk over low heat. Heat to 105 degrees F. Use an instant read thermometer for this. If the milk goes over 115 degrees F. Allow it to cool down below 115 degrees or less before adding it to the yeast.
Once heated, add it to the yeast and water mixture, along with the sugar, salt and cardamom. Mixing on low with a paddle attachment. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat them. Slowly add small amount of the warm milk and sugar mixture to the eggs until about 1/4 of it has been incorporated. Add the egg, mixture back into the mixing bowl, and mix on low.
Add 3 cups of the flour, and mix until the dough is smooth. Pour in the melted butter and combine thoroughly. Switch from the paddle attachment to the dough hook and add the remaining flour, 1 cup at a time until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Remove the dough hook and empty the dough onto a lightly floured board and let it sit for 15 minutes, lightly covered with a kitchen towel.
Once rested, knead the dough gently for 5 minutes. Place in a lightly oiled, clean mixing bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. Set it in a warm spot for 1 1/2 hours until the dough has doubled in size.
Once double, remove it from the bowl and portion the dough into 3 evenly weighted pieces. Take one of the pieces and divide it into 3 evenly sized and weighted pieces.
Roll each piece into a long strand, on a lightly floured board. Each strand should be 17 inches or so in diameter.
Once rolled to the proper length, braid the three pieces together, pinching the ends together and tucking them under. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet and cover with a towel. Repeat with the other two portions of dough.
Let braids rest for 1 hour or until they have risen and are light.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. or 325 degrees F. if using a convection oven.
Combine the egg and milk in a small dish and brush evenly over the tops of the braids.
Sprinkle the pearl sugar and almonds on top and bake for 20 -25 minutes until golden.
Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes before removing to a rack to finish cooling.
Eat the day you bake them or wrap them in plastic and freeze.
**Recipe adapted from Beatrice Ojakangas and The Great Scandinavian Baking Book