I made my way over to Brad’s Produce today. It was opening day and I ran over there just so that I could see what they had and to pick up asparagus and potatoes. I lucked out, Brad’s also carries a wide assortment of canned goods, many of which are their own produce. I picked up a jar of tomato sauce to have on hand. I am scheduled to receive Brad’s early spring CSA that starts next Thursday. It is the first time they are doing one and I am excited to be in on the early bounty.
But, the main topic I wanted to talk about tonight is bread. Fresh, homemade bread. There really is nothing in the world that compares to bread right out of the oven. It fills the whole house with homey smells that make you feel warm and secure. My husband and I can plow through a loaf in an evening. Sometimes we adorn it with butter, jellies or peanut butter. Sometimes we just eat it. Either way, it is adsolutely, heal your soul delicious. The next day, it is still good but…
Right before M was born I got in the habit of making bread on Sundays. I would make two loaves that we would have for the week. I got out of the habit when my stove went up but then revived the habit at intervals since then. Bread does not take long to make if you count only the work invested. However, it does take time to sit, rise and bake. I usually start in the morning on a day that I know I am not going anywhere for a few hours. Sundays work great and even when I don’t get the whole process done before church, Big J can take the finished loaves out when they are brown and crusty.
I am not bread expert but I did find a neat website that describes bread making and has video clips to follow. I make loaves for sandwiches and toast, pizza dough, rolls and pepperoni rolls. There are a number of books out there or you can search the web for just the right recipe. The trick with bread is that you have to know the signs: when is it done rising? how does does elastic, smooth dough feel? what is the “hollow” sound that bakers describe when they knock on a finished loaf? Learning these things is all in the doing. You can start with a bread machine or you can complete the whole process start to finish by hand.
The recipe below is the recipe that I use from AllRecipes.com. I have made MANY variations. Read the reviews (posted on the link above) and pick and choose which changes make sense to you. Here are some of mine: half the honey and/or use sugar; use 4 c. of bread flour and 1 c. of wheat in the first step; add 1/4 c. wheat gluten and 1/4 c. sunflower seeds at step 2; substitute some of the wheat flour with oat, rye or other types of flour; use mostly bread flour. Some of my loaves came out too crumbly when I added too much oat flour and other times my bread did not rise quickly in the cold house. Bread is not an exact science kind of food. You will certainly enjoy eating the mistakes though!
* 3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
* 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
* 1/3 cup honey
* 5 cups bread flour
* 3 tablespoons butter, melted
* 1/3 cup honey
* 1 tablespoon salt
* 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
* 2 tablespoons butter, melted
1. In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups white bread flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.
2. Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. Stir in 2 cups whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky – just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.
3. Punch down, and divide into 3 loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes; do not overbake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely