There was a single, short period when I completely lost interest in cooking. It was exactly three years ago, when my youngest sister, Inbar, passed away at the age of 27. When she left, my joy of cooking and baking left with her. Like everyone else in my family, Inbar loved and appreciated food, and bread was her favorite. As much as we all love and live food, she was the only one in our family who took her passion seriously and professionally. After moving to New York, meeting Michael, marrying him, giving birth to Benjamin, getting diagnosed with leukemia, undergoing treatment, and achieving remission, she applied to the Culinary Institute of New York, and officially became a pastry chef.
While her studies at the Culinary Institute, our townhouse in Brooklyn looked and smelled like a bakery. Since my sister kept a kosher house, she couldn’t bring her daily creations home, so she dropped them off at ours. I remember how proud she was when she came back from school with a sourdough loaf or a perfect brioche she had made with her own hands.
My sister was happiest when she was around children, family and food. She was so enthusiastic and optimistic about everything, and never lost her sense of humor, even in her darkest days. I remember the glow on her beautiful face when she told me how to make a real, proper, traditional loaf of sourdough bread.
Then – two months before her husband completed the work on the new “Baltic Art Café” which she was going to open in Cobble Hill – she was diagnosed again with cancer. The rest of her story is too sad and painful to tell. A year after she died, I slowly started to enjoy cooking again. I also started to bake wholesome, real bread, inspired by her – bread that makes me happy and sad at the same time. Inbar’s bread. Every loaf of bread I bake, I dedicate in my heart to her. It has become my weekly ceremony, a private memorial thingy I do to remind me of the good times we had together.
Today is the third year she is gone. This simple bread recipe is dedicated to the memory of my baby sister, Inbar.
My sister, Inbar.
Homemade bread with butter, the best combination.
Small breads to give away.
Nectarine and rosemary bread, doesn’t seem to work but works.
Nectarine and rosemary bread.
There are many different techniques to make bread and many kinds of breads – but I stick to this recipe because it’s pretty simple.
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 package dry yeast (2¼ teaspoons)
- 1¾ cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- My favorite add-ins are rosemary and poppy seeds. I also like to mix into the dough all kind of seeds like pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, and flax; fruits like nectarines or apricots; or raisins and walnuts; black olives are delicious; and even spices like coriander and rye.
- Put the flour, the yeast, and salt into a big bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until the ingredients are well combined.
- Add in half of the water, using one hand, working it into the flour. Then add the rest of the water a little at a time, and keep working it in with one hand, until the the mixture becomes a slightly sticky dough. If it feels too sticky, add a little more flour. If the dough is not moist and soft, add a little more warm water.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured countertop. Dust it a little, and knead it for a few minutes. The dough should remain a bit sticky, so don't dust it too much. This is the time to add seeds and/or herbs or both to the dough.
- Shape the dough into a ball, and put it back into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a moist, clean kitchen towel, and put it in a warm place. (Not too warm – not on top of a radiator or in the sun. If the temperature in my house is cool, I use a folded table cloth over the plastic wrap – like a blanket – to keep the dough warm, something my mom used to do.) Let it rise until it doubles in size – about 2 hours.
- After the dough has doubled in size, you need to knock the air out of it by pressing down on it with the palm of your hand. Knead it for a minute or two, then shape it into a ball or a thick roll – whatever shape you like your bread.
- Put the dough into a small dutch oven or a loaf pan, or on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Cover with a plastic wrap and leave it in a warm place to rise again until it doubles in size again –about 45 minutes.
- Pre-heat the oven to 420°F.
- You want to keep all the air inside the bread, so don't knock it. Gently place it in the preheated oven. Don't slam the door! Bake for 40–45 minutes. To check if your bread is ready, take it out of the pan and tap on the bottom of it. If it makes a hollow sound, it's cooked. If not, put it back in the oven for a little longer.
- Place on a rack to cool down completely before you slice it.