If it's thrills you want - the kind of thrills you can only get from doing something brazen you've never done before - here's something to do on a wintry day: bake some bread. With your own hands. In your own kitchen.
I admit it sounds a bit ... Amish ... and thrills are usually found on a black diamond ski slope, but what could be more thrilling than kneading dough with your hands, watching it rise and then letting your house fill with the smell of something freshly baked and wholesome?
You don't need Gore-Tex or long underwear for these thrills. And let's face it, chances are you were going to stay inside and eat anyway.
Go get a sack of unbleached flour, a few packets of yeast and a new cookbook (I recommend "The Bread Bible" by Rose Levy Beranbaum) and pick out a simple recipe to start with, like cinnamon raisin loaf, and then work your way up to brioche, potato flatbread pizza or walnut onion bread.
Baking bread, with its mandatory periods of rest, rising and baking, forces one to slow down and restructure the day. While the dough is doing its own thing, you'll have time to read a magazine or take a bath. (A bath, in the middle of the afternoon? How thrilling is that?) You'll have the perfect excuse to avoid the mall or even shoveling the driveway. After all, it will be time to punch down that dough soon.
If your idea of homemade bread involves a bread machine, I implore you to try it this way. At least once.
Here's the perfect bread for a cold day, - Shredded Wheat Bread.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together 3 large Shredded Wheat biscuits and 1 cup milk until the biscuits are soft. Add 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 1/4 cup molasses, 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast, 3 cups unbleached flour and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt and mix to form a shaggy dough. Knead the dough by hand on lightly greased surface until it's smooth (about 10 minutes). (This dough will be quite sticky; resist the urge to add additional flour.)
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover and allow it to rest for 1 hour. (It will become puffy, though it may not double in bulk.) Fashion the dough into a loaf shape and place it in a loaf pan. Cover the pan with lightly greased plastic wrap and allow the loaf to rise for 1 hour, or until it's crested 1 to 2 inches over the rim of the pan.
Bake the bread in a preheated 350-degree oven for 35 minutes, tenting it with aluminum foil for the final 10 minutes of baking if it appears to be browning too quickly.
- Elizabeth Barr