Monday, January 31, 2011

Simply Baking Bread

Good evening, folks.

I hope you are faring well. I'd like to share a simple pleasure, if you will allow it.

Winter time finds me with only the one job - my online shop. Summer has me doing that and my farmer's market job, which is much like two full time jobs - so little time left over. But, in the winter, I bake bread. I make a very simple recipe that is sooooooo very good. You will love it. I've been making this bread twenty plus years.

Here is the recipe:

5-6 cups flour
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening
3 tablespoons sweetener
2 pkgs. yeast (3 1/4 tsp.)
2 1/4 cups warm (about 110 deg. F) water

To be less vague regarding the ingredients...when I say flour, I mean good flour - not a cheap brand. This really makes a difference in the taste and texture of your bread. My favorite flour is Kings flour, but Hodges is good, too. And, I'm sure there are other brands. I don't care if I have bread flour or regular flour, but I do care if it is a good flour.

I use sea salt, old-fashioned lard (NOT ultra refined - yuck!), and usually brown sugar. I've also used honey and molasses.

I live in an area of limestone hard water. So, I used distilled water for my bread.

Before you begin, use an olive oil spray or some shortening and coat 2 loaf pans or 2 cookie sheets and 1 large mixing bowl. You also need a lightweight towel (I use cloth diapers I purchase
for this purpose) big enough to cover the bowl and the 2 pans.

I get a big stainless steel bowl (about 6 quart size), and measure 2 cups flour into the bowl. I add all the ingredients except the yeast and water.
When the water is warm, I add the yeast and then quickly add the measured water. I stir vigorously with a whisk for one minute. Then, I switch to a spoon and start adding the flour 1/2 cup at a time until I reach a dough that will come out of the bowl fairly easy. Using the spoon and a bit extra flour, I scrape the dough onto a floured surface and knead this dough while adding flour until I get a fairly firm dough - one that will turn in a bowl with little stretching.
This will take a few minutes, even up to 10. Then, I put this dough into the bowl and turn it over once to coat the whole dough with the oil/shortening coating. Then, I
place this bowl in a warm draft free spot for about an hour, covered with a lightweight cloth. We want the dough almost doubled. If you poke it with your finger, it should leave a hole where your finger was - it is ready.

Hour is up, and I punch down the dough while simultaneously pulling it out of the bowl onto a newly cleaned and re-floured surface. I split it in two - cover one half and work the other. I enjoy most individual rolls, so I elongate the piece with my hands, much like the shape of a French or
Italian bread, and then using my dough cutter, I cut 1 1/2 inch slices off, dip them in flour on each side, and lay them on a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. I can get 18 on each sheet. I do this with both sides. But, you may choose to shape each into a loaf shape and place it in your loaf

It must now rise. I cover it and set my time for 45 minutes. When that goes off, I turn my
oven on between 375 and 400 deg. F. When preheated, I bake one pan at a time for 16-17 minutes. For a loaf bread, bake both loaves together and check for doneness beginning 22-23 minutes. You should be able to tap it and it sound hollow. For the mini breads, you want a top that is starting to brown.

Slide them off the sheet when done, and cool them on a rack. You can then place them in freezer bags and thaw one at a time for use. They usually take 15-20 minutes to thaw. Very convenient.
Or, take the loaf out of the pan immediately and cool it on a rack. Loaves may be frozen, too. I have to wrap mine in plastic as there were no sizes of resealable bags big enough for the loaf.

And, that is it! It is so easy if you have a few hours to spare and ingredients on hand - what a lovely thing to do for yourself and your loved ones. Healthy and economical, too.

Thanks again, kathleen

1. The bread dough in the pics from the steel bowl to the glass bowls is focaccia bread.
2. Additives are many and varied. Watch amounts only with respect to the bread holding together. Ground sausage, cinnamon and sugar, dill and rosemary, substitute 1 cup wheat flour - no one will ever know, etc.
3. You can make English muffins with a few variations to this standard recipe.
4. Prepare to eat the first one out of the oven with some butter - best food!