From These Hands

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Mixing the dough, hoping it will rise.

This is not a triplet-related post but it is, I think, an important one.

On the drive home from work today I was thinking about all the things my hands have done during my lifetime.

They have written, or logged, millions of words.

They covered my uncanny ability to laugh inappropriately when my kids get hurt (really, I don’t mean to laugh — I just get nervous).

They’ve picked flowers, cleaned cuts, felt for fevers, hung up clothes, helped with self-care, caressed the hands of a loved one…

Held triplet babies…

And this weekend, it seems, these hands did something this owner was reluctant to do.

 

These hands took on an Easter project — by making Paska.

To understand, I have to back up to childhood.

My father was an extraordinary chef. A culinary artist who knew exactly what he needed in his babka just by feel. Add more flour, add an egg yolk or two, stir in some cinnamon for something different… wait, add more.

He had an uncanny ability to just know, by feel, what babka should be. And that was true even when he experimented (see cinnamon above).

My dad was a window washer and self-employed, so he was working all the time. As soon as the sun was up, until it went down, he was out there. And this time of year he’d dedicate hours and his culinary skills to perfecting varenyky (pierogi) and babka (Paska) to sell by the hundreds to help raise funds for our church.

As a yeast bread, it can be a lengthy process getting the babka just right. And some weekends he’d start and sell the breads at church, but he’d repeat the process at home. Making 12 loaves at once seemed to take up most of the day — especially when you’re a kid.

His bread was light, airy, fluffy and sweet. Better fresh out of the oven. Even sweeter the next day toasted and served with a bit of butter.

The house would smell wonderful.

And that smell would linger in my memory. To this day that is my favorite all-time smell.

It reminds me of dad — in the kitchen. Babka baking. Me being warned not to jump for fear the bread wouldn’t rise. Sharing a couch with some freshly baked babka cooling right next to me.

When I married Rob my dad presented us with a traditional Ukrainian welcome gift of an over-sized babka with a braided top, Vodka, and salt. That babka was gone in a week.

And then, when dad got sick, I thought I’d have enough time, one more time at least, to bake some babka — together.

It didn’t happen.

It crushed me.

I felt I just couldn’t do it. Like the art was going to be lost.

Now, fast forward to a few weeks ago when visiting my mom. I think she thought, knowing how much I missed that bread (and its baker), encouraged me to try to make it.

I told her I couldn’t. That dad always made way too much. But she said I could grab a recipe from one of her books from the drawer in her kitchen. “THe one with the recipes.”

I said I couldn’t do it.

But I couldn’t drop it. I kept thinking about it.

So, when I learned I may have a few hours to myself on Saturday, the day before Easter, I thought — why not?

I found a few recipes online and settled on this one from Blogghetti (thank you).

I started around 7 am and practically held my breath through each step.

Will it rise?

Am I doing it right?

Is this even doubling in size?

Well, by about noon, give or take interruptions by my Theodore, I was able to take three perfectly golden loaves of bread out of my oven.

Look! I wish this was scratch and sniff!!!

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I had done it.

And the smell in the house was wonderful.

And, for a moment, it felt like I was back on Washington Drive, at home, with mom and dad and his many loaves of babka.

I did it.

Best of all — I can’t wait to make more. Even Olena approves of the sweet treat. I delivered some to my mom on Easter. She will be the real judge. I can’t wait to hear what she thinks.

~ Until next time…

 

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