I got into the habit last Christmas, when (after some experimentation) I found a Panettone recipe that we all really liked. And now that it's just me and my husband, having fresh bread studded with candied fruit and anise seed (I love the taste of anise and can't get enough of it) with our coffee in the morning is a treat.
Here's the recipe; I've made it so many times now that I know it by heart:
Bread Machine Panettone
3/4 cup warm water
6 T. oil
1 tsp. almond flavoring
3 cups flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup candied fruit (I use part citron)
1 heaping T. anise seed
2 tsp. (or 1 packet) active dry yeast
Measure the ingredients into the bread pan (generally in the order listed here), and bake on a medium setting.
Tonight as I measured (not forgetting the yeast, as I almost did last time), I thought of my great-great grandmother, Mary Ann Hickox Chase, who with her husband Marshall Chase set out in a covered wagon for the wilderness that was Michigan. Even though they lived in northern Ohio and they were heading for Clinton county in southern Michigan, it still took several days riding over rough corduroy roads. I thought of her baking bread over a campfire, and then later in their farmhouse, in the kitchen (if she had an oven) or on the fireplace hearth. When she and her family moved north to Bear Lake, she had a new-fangled tin oven that was the envy of other women, who would sometimes travel a mile to do their baking in it. The oven was in great demand while their new log cabin was being built. (Were her skirts ever in danger of catching fire?)
This tin oven was handed down to her granddaughter, my grandmother Ruby Chase Reed. She and her husband Maurice used it on their many camping trips, in Michigan and trips out west. In July 1930 Maurice noted in his journal, "Baked 6 loaves of bread, 3 dozen cookies, a loaf of cornbread and a lot of pancakes at this stop." It was the marvel of the entire campground.
In the early 1940s, before their cottage was built, every summer Maurice and Ruby would set up camp on the shores of Crystal Lake. Although they probably used their tin oven, Ruby would also frequently take the car or the boat, and go into town to do her week's baking at her mother-in-law's house.
Tonight, as I measured the ingredients into the bread machine, I thought of Mary Ann, and Ruby, and my own mother. I smiled as I thought how easy life is for us women nowadays, and then I thought down the years to the future - at the thought that my someday great great granddaughters might marvel and exclaim at how primitive my kitchen is.
I am the bridge between the generations - making a loaf of bread.