Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Our Daily Bread.....
Well, I must admit that I've been kicking back a bit after Christmas. Allowing my baking brain to come down from all those cookies I was baking, and relaxing with the back massager thingy that G gave to me (thank you, Honey!). But, there is one thing that needs to be baked each week, and the time has come for me to quit relaxing and mix up some dough. This thing is our toasting bread, our sandwich bread, our melt a piece of cheese on it and snack bread. I know, I know...normal people just buy a loaf of bread from the store for these purposes, but have you noticed how much it costs? One 5 pound bag of bread flour costs about the same as one loaf of sliced store bought bread. Why pay for the prebaked, presliced, full of preservatives, can squish the entire loaf into a 1"x1" cube, when for the same amount of money, you can make 6 or 8 loaves total of homemade, no need for potpourri (gosh it smells good in here, have you been baking bread?), you know what goes into it, slice as you go bread? This is so much better than the squishy stuff, that you will wonder why you ever bought it to begin with. I've found that I can switch this recipe around quite a bit depending on what I want. I can substitute up to half whole wheat flour (I haven't tried subbing more yet...as subbing half does affect the loaf a bit, yeilding a denser loaf of bread) if it is a wheaty bread that we are wanting. I can use honey instead of sugar, I can use butter or olive oil or vegetable oil for the fat, I can put in some wheat germ, I can add a few seeds, I can add cinnamon and raisins for a nice change....I guess what I'm trying to say in my long-winded run-on sentence, is that this is versatile, easy to make, and rewarding in a I-just-baked-my-own-bread kind of way (did I mention that I can sub milk for the water?). This would be a great starter bread for anyone wanting to get their hands in the dough for the first time. Ok, ok,I'll stop with my yapping now, and get on with the recipe!
Basic Bread: (makes 2 9x5" loaf pans of bread)
2 cups lukewarm water (or milk, or half milk/half H2O)
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar (or honey, if you are going to make this a cinnamon raisin bread, you can up the sugar a bit if you like)
6 cups unbleached bread flour (or sub in some whole wheat flour if you like)
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil (or 2 ounces (4Tbsp) Butter, or fat of your choice I am using extra virgin olive oil for the bread this time around, the butter really does change the flavor up a bit)
4 Tbsp Wheat Germ (optional)
-In a large bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer) whisk together the water, yeast and sugar. Let stand for 10 minutes, or until the yeast looks creamy.
-Add the remaining ingredients and mix until well blended (or on low for about 2 minutes with a dough hook).
-Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, and knead, adding more flour if you need, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the dough is elastic and smooth (or mix on medium for about 8 minutes, until the dough has the same appearance).
-Shape the dough into a smooth ball and place in an oiled bowl that allows enough room for the dough to grow. Cover the bowl tightly with film wrap or a damp towel, and set aside to rise for about one hour, or until the dough doubles in size.
-Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, gently flatten the dough, and cut into two equal portions. Shape each portion into a log (I just roll the dough up somewhat tightly) and seal the seam by pressing on it. Place each piece of dough into a greased 9x5" loaf pan, seam side down,
lightly spray the tops with pan spray, and cover again with film wrap or a damp towel. Allow the loaves to rise about an hour to an hour and a half, until they are about doubled. Preheat the oven to 350f while the dough is rising.
-Bake the loaves for 30 to 45 minutes, or until they are a deep golden brown, and sound hollow when the bottoms are thumped (you'll have to tip them out of their pans to test this). I did gently brush the tops of the loaves with egg whites for shine before I baked them.
-Allow the bread to cool about 30 minutes or longer before consuming (very difficult to do!).
As I've said, this is a very simple basic bread. Nothing fancy, but it is still delicious. And I'm all about delicious.
Happy Baking! I do hope Santa brought you everything you wished for!