When I was about six I decided to upgrade from my Fisher Price kitchen set to the real deal. No more plastic broccoli for me! I wanted to make the good stuff. So, I began tinkering around in the kitchen. This usually occurred at 7 a.m. on Saturday mornings when I could guarantee alone time with my budding culinary genius. The parents like to tell me about the time they found little me standing on a chair over the kitchen sink, feverishly whacking at a bowl of chopped apples with a wooden mallet. I was trying to make applesauce.

But what I wanted to do more than anything for some unknown reason was bake bread. I was certain that a simple mixture of flower, water, oil, and a pinch of salt would miraculously transform itself into a delicious, golden, puffy cloud once placed in the oven. Sadly, I had never heard of yeast.

What I got instead were flat hockey pucks with a chewy, paste-like center. However, to my now 10 year old mind, these not so heavenly loaves were ideal. I even wrote my “recipe” down, tucking it away safely with my mother’s favorites.

I eventually grew out of my bread making faze and moved on to the usual things young girls cook when they are first allowed to use the oven: brownies and cupcakes. The next time bread crossed my path in any significant way was when an ex-boyfriend started cheating on me with his bread machine. However, when a girl is presented with warm loaves of homemade wheat bread she really can’t complain about a night or two spent alone. But the bread machine route didn’t fascinate me. All you did was toss in a bunch of ingredients and hit “go.” Where was the magic? The transformation?!

Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my cardamom bread recipe required several minutes of not only kneading but braiding! Don’t you just love kneading dough? You’ve got your sleeves rolled up, flour in your hair and a mass of soft, squishy dough coming together under your hands. Ma Ingalls would have been proud!

This was my first foray into baking bread “the old fashioned way” and it was terrific. True it takes a few hours to let your dough rise, but there is nothing like leaving a small ball of dough under a towel in a bowl and returning to find it puffed up and begging to be tossed in the oven. I like to imagine that a mischievous kitchen imp comes in while I’m away and sprinkles the dough with culinary pixie dust.

Oh little yeast fairy, where have you been all my baking life?


Cardamom bread

Making this bread is super simple due to the main ingredient – hot roll mix. Such a handy way to make bread! A word on cardamom: fresh is the best! If you can, buy the pods rather than the pre-ground spice. It will take a little longer to grind the seeds, but it’s worth it. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle (I don’t) then lay the seeds between parchment paper and grind with a mallet until fine. As for the raisins, I myself am not a fan. However golden raisins have a much milder taste and add just the right amount of fruity pop to balance the spicy cardamom.

You will need:
1 package hot roll mix
2 tbsp. melted butter, cooled
1 1/2 to 2 tsp. ground cardamom
1/2 cup light raisins


Preheat your oven to 375.

Prepare hot roll mix according to the package. And yes, you will need an additional 2 tbsp. of butter for your dough on top of the amount called for on the hot roll mix box.

Once the dough has been mixed, add the cooled butter, cardamom and raisins. Toss about with your hands until combined. Set the dough in a bowl and cover with a towel. Let rise until double in size, about 1 hour.

On a floured board, channel Ma Ingalls and knead your dough for 1 minute. Never kneaded before? Simply push into the dough with the heels of your hands, fold it in half toward yourself, turn 1/4 to the right and repeat!

Divide the dough into thirds and roll each piece to form a 10 inch strand, tapering the ends. Place the strands 1 ich a part on a greased baking sheet.

Beginning in the middle, braid the three strands loosely, working toward either end. Pinch the ends together, cover with a towel and let rise until it resembles a “monster” as my mother put it, about 40 minutes.

Brush the loaf with milk and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 25 minutes.

Yield ~ 1 loaf