Monday, December 12, 2011

The Enormous Bread Bowl and the Journey to My Happy Kitchen

When I was around 19 or 20 years old I used to bake these decadent poppy seed white-chocolate chip cookies and sell them at cafes in Sebastopol. My aunt, a baker, upon learning of my interest in baking gifted me with a bread bowl. It is an extraordinary bowl. It was made by Robinson Ransbottom Pottery out of Roseville, Ohio. I liked it at the time but I also felt a bit burdened by it. The thing is huge and weighs all of 15 pounds. At the time, I could fit all of my belongings into one vehicle. For years, I moved an average of once every 6 months and oftentimes shared a kitchen with numerous college roommates. After college I began my career by working seasonally for the Forest Service and so my nomadic lifestyle continued. For many years the bowl and I were separated. It sat in a closet at my parents' house, unused but not forgotten. 

Even my first house was too small for the bowl. In 1998 I bought a 700 square foot cabin at Lake Tahoe where I worked at the time. Oh, the joy of my own kitchen at last! It was small and dated but it was mine. I have fond memories of sushi get togethers, BBQs, fresh pasta, pesto shrimp, apple pies, baba ganoush, hummus, quiches, soups, salads, and scones. Cabinet and counter space were both limited. I remember one particular incident where I was blending some batter for apple clafouti. The blender lid was not secured properly and batter sprayed out all over me. I stepped back, right onto the edge of a pie plate full of brandy-sauteed apples and batter which, of course, flipped up, covering my shoe and the floor with a sticky mess. It was on the floor because I had run out of counter space. Actually, if I recall correctly, this occurred about 5 minutes after I had chipped my grandparents' old crystal liquor decanter as I pulled the bottle of brandy from the back of a crammed cabinet. Oh, how I longed for a bigger kitchen!

It wasn't until 8 years ago, when we moved into our current house, that the bowl had a kitchen to properly accommodate it. When not in use for baking, the bowl literally serves as our bread bowl. It sits prominently but unpretentiously in a counter corner where it holds our loaves of bread, baguettes, and chips. It is also the perfect bowl to mix large batches of dough and leave it to rise. I am not a weekly bread baker but instead am sporadic. But whenever I am ready the bowl is there. Although it has now seen a lot of use as a container and for pizza dough and bread projects it looks as new as the day I received it 20 plus years ago. It is made to last and down-homey and wonderful. It took awhile for me to settle down and find my happy and spacious kitchen and now the bread bowl is an integral part of it. 

Yesterday I used it to mix pumpkin bread batter.

Mom's Pumpkin Bread
Notes: My mom always made this with homemade fresh pumpkin puree and I do the same but I'm sure canned would be fine too. This recipe makes one large loaf (9"x5") but is easily doubled to make 3 medium loaves. Freezes well.

In one bowl mix:
1 3/4 cup flour
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. salt
3/4 t. each cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger 
1/2 t. clove
In another bowl mix:
2 eggs 
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water
1 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
 - Add dry to wet ingredients. Stir well. Add 3/4 cup of raisins and 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts or pecans. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/4 hour or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from pan.



  1. The white chocolate chip poppy seed cookies are still a favorite in this household.

  2. Everybody should read this blog. Your writing is amazing.