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Friday, April 29, 2011

A Whole Hand?

Today is my anniversary.  Five years ago today, I declared before an entire church filled with friends and family, that I would love Taylor forever, come rain or come shine.

2006

Five years.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

...


A Paschal Theology of Brioche

**sorry for any duplication--blogger hiccuped last week and deleted a few of my posts, so I'm re-posting them now**


When I reached for my Flour cookbook on Holy Saturday, I was a bit taken aback at the length of time the brioche recipe took. I wanted to make this egg- and butter-rich bread for our Pascha this year, but Saturday was the first time I'd looked at the recipe. "Still," I thought, "I can just break it up around our schedule."

And thinking about it after-the-fact, I think it fit perfectly with so much about Easter. Let me tell you about it.

Ingredients (for such a rich bread, it's surprisingly simple--life lessons, anyone?):
5 eggs, for the Pentateuch: the foundation of our faith, and the beginning of God's work in the world. Eggs for new life; eggs to remind us what we have given up for Lent.
Butter! So much butter: 18 tablespoons, to be precise. Nine in each loaf of brioche. Six sets of three. Oh, the richness of the Trinity :) 
Yeast, because we are Children of the Resurrection! 
Flour and water--can't make bread without these. 
Salt. We are the salt of the earth, after all.
---

So, in making the brioche, first you mix the flour, yeast, salt, eggs, and water together in a mixer, making a stiff dough--hardly pliable at all and not soft or supple like bread dough is supposed to be. But kneading is key in this recipe. In order to entice the gluten to break down, forming lovely, long, elastic strands, you have to knead the heck out of this dough. And you also need butter. Lots of it.

The recipe says to add the butter incrementally, waiting to add more until each addition is fully incorporated. Have you made brioche? Do you know how difficult it is to get (slippery, gooey, room-temperature) butter to mix into a stiff dough? It... takes a while. And even then, when all the butter is mixed in, the dough just sits on the bottom of the bowl all gooey and sticky. "How will this ever be bread," I wondered. Joanne said "trust me," though, so I did.

Knead for 10 minutes. Or longer. On medium speed, until the dough comes together and gets satiny smooth and much more bread-dough-like. I was amazed at this transformation. By the end of the kneading, you turn the mixer up a notch or two so that the dough is audibly slapping the side of the bowl. I guess you have to really beat the dough to get a soft, springy loaf... who knew?

Then you put the now-soft-and-supple-and-tasty dough into a bowl, cover it, and let it rise in the fridge for 6 hours, but preferably overnight. I only had 6 hours before we returned from the vigil with a tight schedule Easter Sunday, so I put it in the fridge, hoping for the best.



All the while we waited the Resurrection of the Lord, the dough was resting. "This is the night.." the priest chanted the Exultet. This is the night that Christ rose from the dead, triumphant over death forever. Oh death, where is your sting? Oh grave, where is your victory? And our Easter Bread rested, waiting.

When we got home, late at night, I took the cold, clammy dough out of the fridge and shaped it into two loaves, reserving two little bits for shaping the cross for the top. And, after I placed the braided crosses on top, I covered the loaves in their pans and set them to rise over night. In a warm, cozy spot in my kitchen, the dough slowly expanded and grew to fill the pans, popping over the top, ebullient with the life of the yeast.

Early in the morning, before the sun was up, I woke to my alarm. Time to turn the oven on! Time to bake our Easter Bread. While the oven was warming, I brushed the tops of the loaves with beaten egg, creating the perfect recipe for a golden, shiny crust. Into the oven; set the timer; snooze on the couch.

The bread was done just as the sun was rising, just as the sky was brightening on our happy Easter morn.


And it was delicious.

So delicious, in fact, that I didn't take any pictures. Oops :(

Monday, April 25, 2011

Christ is Risen!

Indeed He is risen!!

St. John Chrysostom's Paschal Homily

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.  If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.  If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now receive recompense.  If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward.  If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.  If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss.  If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation.  If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.

For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first.  He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one He gives, and to the other He is gracious.  He both honors the work and praises the intention.  Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Our Good Friday

Did you ever wonder, as a kid, why they called it "Good Friday" if it was the day we remember that Jesus suffered so much on the cross for us?  I know for me, at least, it was always a bit counter-intuitive.  I could understand the logic that our salvation came out of His death, but it still didn't sound like it was a good day.  I'll bet Mary didn't feel very good that day, I thought to myself.  I know Jesus didn't.

But of course, with age comes wisdom, and one begins to see how suffering can enlighten the pain of a moment and reveal its true value and goodness.  Yes, goodness in suffering.  Jesus may not have been very comfortable, but as a blogger-friend related, the nails didn't keep Him on that cross--Love did.  He suffered, yes, but He suffered for a reason.  For us.  And that is truly Goodness.

I find myself thinking lately about suffering and waiting and not-knowing.  Especially as concerns the adoption process, of course.  This Good Friday we spent many happy hours with the Babe before heading back into town for church.  She is so comfortable with us now, so relaxed when we're holding her.  I have experienced it with other babies, of course, but it's so different with This Little Girl, She Who Might Be Ours Someday.  Hopefully soon.

It's hard waiting, not knowing one way or another how things will turn out.  Not knowing if we'll ever be able to introduce her to our friends or watch her sleeping next to us.  We are so in Love with her.. can't we show the world already?  It's hard to leave at the end of every visit.  It's hard to say goodbye again and again and again, hoping, as we go, to never have to say it anymore, someday.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011

Remiss

I have been remiss in posting here.  I have been silent because I feel like I have nothing to write about.  Stagnant.  Stuck.  Stalled.  It's all the same. Everyone knows how I feel right now.  What else is there to say?

Some days I feel it is all I can do to get to and from work and put dinner on the table.  Three nights within the last week we've had leftover soup.  The same soup.  With the same muffins.

Other days it's better. I'm pleasant at work, and I can get a few things done around the house, visit with people, make a nice dinner and clean up the kitchen afterwards.  I've even started running a bit lately.  I cleaned the bathroom this weekend.  It really needed it.

After a crushed-hopes-induced hiatus, I've begun pumping again.  Perhaps that, too, can be an act of faith--pumping in the hopes that within the next several weeks, we will have news of Baby Girl's future.  Maybe in a few weeks we will have a date to look forward to.  Not "look forward" as in "get excited," necessarily.  Just looking forward directionally, toward the horizon.  The next point we need to get to.  To Hope for.

See, I'm stuck in a fog of ambiguity.  Sometimes it's so thick I can't see my own feet on the ground and have to trust that the next step I take will land on something solid.  Oftentimes my trust falters and I can't move... I just stand there, frustrated by my own weak faith and staidness, but terrified of taking a wrong step.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011