Monday, September 06, 2010

Necessity

I remember my first experiments with making bread, sometime in the first couple of years after getting married. My main response: All this work, just to eat it? I thought of all the women in the world who spent, who still spend, so much time making bread, and of those who eat it without much thought. It's just bread, right? And although now most people agree that good homemade bread is a very big deal, there was a time in our culture when it was pretty well taken for granted. And in some parts of the world the daily work of making bread still is very routine.

Fast forward. I obtained a bread machine for $20 on eBay and experimented with it. I was less than impressed. I gave it away. I tried different recipes, some good and some iffy. I still mostly bought bread at the grocery store.

Then, early this summer, weirdness. My lip suddenly swelled up like a botched collagen job after eating a ham sandwich with watermelon for lunch. What was I allergic to? The ham, the watermelon? After more experiments (with varying results that have me looking like a Simpsons character from time to time), I have determined that the answer is this: I am allergic to some kind of preservative or something found in prepared bread products, including cereal and tortillas.

You can imagine I don't so much take bread for granted anymore. I eat less of it. I enjoy it more when I do. I think about the bread broken by Jesus at the feeding of the five thousand or the Last Supper. I think about the bread kneaded and baked by pioneer women. I savor the sandwich buns made by my grandma when I encounter them on a picnic.

We do have a Great Harvest bakery in town, and I'm a fan. However, not every week can I plunk down $5 per loaf. I've found a recipe that works very well, doesn't feel like an overwhelming amount of work, keeps well in the fridge, makes good toast, and is eagerly eaten by my kids. It's Farm Journal. If you've read this blog, you know about the Farm Journal advice I got from my grandma - same one who makes the fabulous sandwich buns - if you see a Farm Journal cookbook, buy it. Good advice. Here's the recipe, with my notes.

Easy Mixer Bread

2 1/2 c. warm water (hot out of the tap works fine for me, but the book says 110-115 degrees F)
4 1/2 tsp. (2 packages) active dry yeast
1/2 c. instant nonfat dry milk
2 tbsp. sugar or honey
1 tbsp. salt (I like to use kosher salt for this)
1/3 c. vegetable oil
7 to 7 1/2 c. flour - use AT LEAST half BREAD FLOUR for best results! You can do half bread flour and half all purpose, or half bread flour and half whole wheat flour

Pour warm water into large mixer bowl. Sprinkle yeast over top. Add dry milk, sugar, salt, oil, and 3 c. flour. Blend well on low speed using whisk attachment, scraping sides and bottom of bowl. Blend on medium speed for 3 minutes.

Gradually add remaining flour to make a stiff dough. In my experience stick closer to 7 c. of flour if you're using whole wheat, closer to 7 1/2 if it's all white. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes.

Toss dough on a floured surface until no longer sticky. Knead until smooth - about 1 minute. Divide in half. Use rolling pin to flatten each half to a rectangle about 12x6". Roll up like a jelly roll, tucking edges to make a smooth loaf shape. Place, seam side down, in well greased loaf pans.

Cover (I use plastic wrap sprayed with PAM) and let rise in a warm place, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. My wheat bread usually needs to rise longer than my white bread.

Bake at 400 for 30-35 minutes. Remove from pans immediately. Brush crust with butter to soften (and make it YUMMY). Set on side of loaf to cool on wire racks. Don't slice it until it's cool. It will still be fabulous.

3 comments:

SalGal said...

Questions!! I have questions!!

I assume you switch from beater to dough hook at some point in the mixing, yes?

And what, exactly, defines "warm place" for the dough to rise? Seriously, I need graphic details or I will get it wrong. Sad, isn't it?

p.s. A little funny... my word verification is "porea". Is that like, a poopy Korea? Or diarrhea of the pores? (My poop jokes for the day, bah dum dum!)

Ana said...

Good catch Sal! Yes, switch to the dough hook after the 3 minute mix. Warm place - room temp is fine unless you keep a cold house (I don't think you do considering how you were always freezing in my house!) But in that case I would say you could briefly heat your oven to 200 and then turn it off, leave the door open for a few good seconds, and then set the bread in there to rise.

Lucy said...

Such a bizarre manifestation! I hope this solves all of your lip swelling!