Friday, November 9, 2012


The story about this loaf will be posted on November 30th.

These instructions, written ages ago for one of my nephews,  and recently revised,assume that you have a KitchenAid or similar mixer. Originally I did this all by hand, but the machine is very handy for my arthritic hands.

Basically, my bread has these ingredients for two 9½x5½x2¾ pans
      1 Tbsp. yeast
      2 Cups warm liquid* - water 
      2 Tbsp. sugar**
      1 Tbsp. salt***
      ¼ Cup shortening**** - oil
      5½-6 Cups of flour - white*****    

Notice all these stars!!  Read through all of this, noting the starred item notes (way) below.
I put the liquid in the bowl, sprinkle on the yeast, add the sugar, salt, shortening, and mix it all well. A whisk is handy for this. I add 5½ cups of flour and mix it in.  The last half cup or so is added depending on how the dough reacts.  If it is too sticky I'll add more. The dough should come away from the sides of the bowl and lump up on the dough hook.  Dough will be easier to work on rainy days where the barometric pressure is low.  If your dough is on the sticky side, you should flour up your hands and board.

White bread is just as above.  You can use milk and butter to make a silkier loaf.  These are nice if making raisin bread. (add 1 T more sugar, some cinnamon, 1 tsp. or so, and about a cup of raisins before adding the flour) (substitute cardamom for cinnamon to a make Norwegian Yule Kake type bread.)

Most times now I add a cup of quick oatmeal (not instant or old fashioned) to my white bread for some extra fiber.

For wheat bread I increase the water to 2¼ cups.  Instead of the sugar I use 2T molasses (for color and a different flavor) and 2T honey. The flour mix is 2C whole wheat flour, 1C quick oatmeal and 2½-3 C white flour.  Always more white than wheat.

For a nice whole grain bread you can add 1 C Harvest Grains Blend (I get this on line from King Arthur Flour) to the wheat bread recipe.

For sweet rolls you can 2T more sugar and a beaten egg to the basic white bread mix.

For a cheesy bread, add a cup of grated cheese to the liquid mix.

Always add the flour(s) last. 


After mixing and machine kneading, I knead the dough by hand for a while - very satisfying - and then I form the dough into a flattened ball on a on a floured counter, and let it sit for 20 minutes or so, until it rises a bit.  Don’t worry if you let it go longer: “official” recipes tell you to let it rise until doubled.

Punch it down and form it into two equal loaves (I weigh them on an old postage scale to get them about even) - or rolls - and put the dough into greased pans.  I put the loaves into the oven and - this is tricky!! - turn on oven until it is just warm-- Then turn it off.

      (Better yet - warm the oven, then put in the loaf pans!)

If you can see the temperature display on your stove don’t let it get too much above 105°. The oven provides the warm, draft free place for the dough to rise.  (Sometimes I have forgotten and left the oven on - a bit of a disaster some times. The loaf may look like they have risen properly, but they usually deflate in the baking.  Still tastes good though.  Croutons anyone?!)

The dough usually takes an hour or so to rise properly.  About double and a half.  If you forget it and it really looks puffy, it will almost always deflate some (see above!) in the baking.  If the loaves are for 'show', or if you’ve accidentally hit the side of the oven or rack and the loaf deflates, just remove them, punch them down, reform them, and let them rise again.  Yeast is very forgiving.  Note - the barometric pressure has a lot to do with how fast the bread rises.  On a high pressure, sunny day it will take longer to rise.  Just think of the high pressure as pressing more heavily on the dough.  On overcast and rainy days, low pressure, the light air lets the dough rise more quickly.  (pray for rain!)

Once the dough has risen, remove the loaves from the oven and place them on top of the stove, near the heat of the oven outlet.  Heat the oven to 450º. When the oven is up to temperature, put the loaves in side by side - maybe three inches between - and time them for 10 minutes.  At the 10 min. mark, turn down the oven to 350º, and time the loaves for 30 minutes.  (Rolls for 15 minutes) 

Remove the loaves or rolls from the pans and cool them on racks.  Do not slice the bread until it is completely cool.  Slicing too soon will make for harder cutting and gumminess where the knife has pushed through instead of slicing cleanly.

If the sliced loaf or rolls won't be used up in two days, I recommend freezing them because there are no preservatives in these loaves. You can take out just what you need for the meal, and it will defrost in no time, helped along by a microwave if you're running late.  With some toasters, like mine, it is possible to plunk in the slices still frozen and still have them toast properly.

Of course, if the bread goes stale there are always French toast, croutons, stratas, etc. to be made.

King Arthur Flour has a treasure chest of bread recipes.  The nice thing is that you can choose to have the ingredients listed by volume or weight in ounces or grams.

* liquid -what have you?  Over the years I have added bouillon, potato water, milk: regular, skim, buttermilk; tomato soup, orange juice, cottage cheese, sour cream, - any liquid or semi-solid I had left over and wanted to use up - with water or milk added to make the needed measure. (I use an extra ½ cup if I’m making bread with whole wheat flour because it sucks up more water than regular white flour.) Use your judgment and instinct to know what will 'go', according to how you want to use the bread.  Always make sure to use warmed, not hot, liquid.  Yeast slows down in the cold, that’s why I keep mine in the freezer, but too hot a liquid will kill it.

** sugar - white or brown granulated, honey, maple or pancake syrup. Powdered sugar isn't recommended. 

***never forget salt - your bread will be blah!  Sugar you can forget, never salt!

**** These days I use olive oil for the most part.  You can use vegetable oil (Usually, not nut oils because they are too flavorful, not to mention expensive) I have, in the past, used bacon fat and butter – butter, even now,  especially for sweet breads and Christmas breads like Yule Kake.  Oh, the cholesterol!  Oh, the calories!  Oh, it’s delicious!

*****Some folks measure flour by the cup, some by weight. The recipes on the website at King Arthur Flour give you the choice of either method.  If you are measuring by the cup, be careful of taking your flour directly from a new bag.  This flour has been tamped down and there is much more weight in that cup than if you had first transferred it to a canister and taken the loosened flour. 

That’s about all I can write down.  I have been making bread for over thirty-five years, so some of this knowledge has come to me be osmosis over that time.  It isn’t easy explaining the feel of the dough, how it reacts on a rainy day – you just have to get some experience under your belt.  I can say this – even my disasters have tasted O.K. – provided I didn’t forget the salt!!  

P.S.  Email me if you have any questions.  ;-)

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