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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

baking bread

Last week we had some rain & cooler temp's so I baked bread. I always use the same recipe and triple it because it freezes well. Here in the first photo I am beginning to add flour to the scalded milk, salt, honey and shortening, while the yeast and warm water begin to work in the container on the left. The flour helps to cool the milk faster. Never add yeast to a hot sponge!
It's beginning to look like bread dough now. I used half whole wheat and half unbleached white flour. If I am making a dark bread I use other whole grains and molasses to sweeten the dough instead of honey. Baking bread is messy work, but oh-so worth it! The damp towel under the mixing bowl holds the stainless steel bowl in place and keeps it from marking up my white counter.
Now the kneading begins. Actually kneading is really good therapy. As you poke and punch and shove it around you are getting rid of some pent up emotions. Cheaper than a Shrink too~! Can you tell that I had a couple difficult marriages?
Once you've punched all the hot air out of him, just shape him into a nice little ball and rub some oil or shortening all over him and toss him back into the bowl.
The oil keeps the dough from forming a hard crust which is hard to work with and also won't let his little head grow big and fat like it should.

Put a clean towel over top to keep out any draft and set him in a warm place until he has doubled in size. Sometimes I don't get around to punching him down again until he is flopping over the sides of the pan. He doesn't seem to mind. After the second kneading he has to be oiled again, covered and left to rise a second time. Some people I know only let their dough rise once before forming loaves, but I find I get a lighter loaf by letting it rise twice before shaping the loaves. Besides, I get to knock the dickens out of it again.
Since my Ab's turned to flab's, this is how my my belly looks after all the mixing and kneading. I can just hear my grandma's say, "Beverly dear, where is your apron?"

More than doubled in size he's ready to get knocked flat again and shaped into loaves. See where I poked his sides to see if the indentations remained? That's how I test to know if it's is risen enough.
After the second rising I form the loaves and let them rise again. Then into a hot oven, 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. Over baking makes a dry bread. I test doneness by knocking on the top crust. If it sounds hollow, it's done.
Here they are, piping hot and so fragrant it's nearly intoxicating. I don't know of anything that smells so homey and delicious as homemade bread hot from the oven. Now we have to wait until it cools. NOT!
(the little loaf on the left is banana bread)

The only thing better than the smell of homemade bread hot from the oven is the flavor. It slices just fine with a serrated knife. But before we had them we used to tear a loaf to pieces and eat it.
Here's my reward. After all the therapeutic labor I get to butter and eat it.
The cook has to sample her fare you know. Now that's what I call some kind of good therapy!
Try it, you'll like it.
Ingredients
1 package active dry yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water
2 cups scalded milk
2-4 tablespoons honey (according to taste)
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 tablespoon shortening
3 cups whole wheat flour (I use Bob's Red Mill Whole Wheat Flour)
3-4 cups unbleached white flour.
I think the directions under the photo's are adequate.
Two things I have learned that make a dry, coarse loaf. Too much flour and over baking.
If you want a soft top crust, brush shortening or butter on when it's still hot. If you want a chewy top crust, spray it with water. If you want it crisp leave it alone.


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