Friday, February 6, 2009
Our Daily Bread
At the women's Bible study I attend, our fearless leader (the woman at whose house we all meet) asked us each to name one thing we loved. The answers were hilariously varied (though not especially numerous; we're not a very big group!), including such things as "sunshine" and "my husband -- because he makes me laugh so hard I snort." I said, "I love making bread." And I do. Beginning when Scott was in residency and I first began to stay home full-time with the children, I started messing around making bread.
My Grandma Bergman used to make bread daily when she cooked on the chuck wagon (literally a horse-drawn wagon) for the wheat harvesters in the summertime. She mixed up the dough in a big bowl and held it in her lap so it would rise as the wagon driver and she jounced along to the next stop to serve lunch.
I can remember my mother making bread regularly when I was a child. She made it in serious quantity -- it seemed that she did a dozen loaves at once, though I don't know if that was my childish perspective, or not. She mixed up the dough by hand in a huge metal kettle, and baked the loaves in coffee cans, so they were round and tall. When I started making my own, I had some fairly spectacular failures -- I made one batch of whole-wheat walnut bread which could easily have been used to batter someone senseless with one blow!
Then I learned a few tricks. I'm all about tricky cooking. I'm such a lazy cook. If I don't have to measure it, I don't. If I can swap ingredients, I do. Mom told me that Grandma always made a "sponge" when making dough that was whole-wheat, or used a large quantity of whole-wheat (I'll explain that later). It makes a huge difference in ... um ... weight. I found a recipe I liked and tinkered around with it. I learned about vital wheat gluten (more about it later, too).
The result is, I make the following recipe about once a week. Only I make it in quadruple quantity. We eat it for toast, sandwiches, everything. I'll post the quadruple one, too, if any of you would like -- I just thought it might be more usable this way, as I wasn't sure anyone wanted to jump off the high dive quite that quickly! The recipe is adapted from one in Heather Houck Reseck's Fix It Fast cookbook. Note: I'm sorry, those of you outside the US -- I have no metric quantities for this recipe (*blush*)!
**Kristin's Everyday Bread**
1 1/2 c (10 0z) warm water
2 1/2 t active dry yeast
3 T honey or molasses
1 1/2 T nonfat dry milk
1 1/4 t salt
3 T oil
2 T vital wheat gluten (this is often available near the yeast in grocery stores -- sometimes called
dough enhancer? It's optional, but makes the bread rise better.)
1 1/2 c whole wheat flour (I have a grain mill, so grind this myself -- makes a great loaf!)
1 1/2 c white flour (unbleached)
Mix all ingredients but the white flour together in a large bowl (or a bread mixer/Bosch if you have one), stirring well. You will have a soupy sort of dough. Cover the bowl and let it sit for half an hour or so. This is the "sponge" my grandma suggested, and gives the yeast a head start. After the half hour, stir briefly to knock down what has risen, and add the white flour as needed for a slightly tacky (but handle-able) dough (it should pull away from the sides of the bowl if you're using a mixer/machine). Knead by hand approx. 10 min. or in your bread machine 5 min. or so.
Place the dough in a clean bowl; do not grease the bowl first -- the heavy whole-grain dough needs to be able to "climb" the sides of the bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and put in a warm place to rise until doubled -- approx. 1 hour.
When dough is doubled in size, punch down, knead briefly to restore shape, and shape into a loaf. Place in a well-greased loaf pan, cover with the tea towel again, and return to the warm place to rise for approx. 1/2 hour. Bake in 375 degree oven for 35-40 mins., or until bread is well-browned and sounds hollow when tipped out of the pan and thumped on the bottom. Let cool out of pan on wire rack. For a glossy top crust, smooth a bit of butter or shortening on the top of the hot loaf.