Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Measuring is highly over-rated...

I love to make bread.  I love to eat bread, too!  It's such a part of our lives, that it always surprises me when someone says that they just can't make bread.  I think a lot of us get it into our head that it's some kind of science.  I say that it is more of an art.
Today, I made a soft, sweet brown bread.  I didn't measure much, just threw stuff in a mixing bowl.  If you have ever wanted to try bread-making, I hope you'll find inspiration here.

My Crazy Take on an Amish Bread Recipe

3 cups warm water
3 T yeast (or 3 pkgs)
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 T salt
3 T flour
1 T molasses
3/4 cup vegetable oil

Start with about 3 cups of warm water.  Most tap water is 120 degrees or more.  You want your water to be no hotter than 115, so add a bit of cool water.  It should feel good to the touch, like a nice warm bubble bath.
Pour the water into your mixing bowl and add 3 T yeast.  I like to add ground flax seed as well.  It's heart healthy stuff and it adds a bit of a nutty flavor.  Very yummy, but optional.  Leave it out if you don't have any  in the cabinet. 

Mix all that good stuff up in your bowl and leave it for 5 or 10 minutes.  Perfect amount of time to get out the next batch of ingredients and grease your bread pans.  I love to use shortening for this job.  Just shortening.  I know lots of people say to flour your pan, but my experience has been that the bread simply falls out of my pan with the shortening only method.

Now, on to the good stuff.  Add all the rest of the ingredients except the bulk of the flour.  Measuring is highly over-rated, so just come close enough and it'll be fine.  I rarely measure anything and never with any accuracy.

Now, you can start adding the flour about 1/2 cup at a time.  I sometimes use all white flour, but I often use quite a bit of whole wheat flour.  The best advice is to introduce whole wheat slowly and add the amount of whole wheat as your tastes and experience grows.

You'll start with something that looks like this....

As you add flour a half a cup at a time, it will begin to look like this...

When it begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl, like this...

Then, it's time to switch to the dough hook.
Add about a tablespoon of flour at a time to help keep the dough from sticking to the outside of the bowl.  The less flour you add, the softer the bread will be.  The more flour you introduce, the harder the bread will turn out.  This dough looks about right for a very soft dough and a melt in your mouth bread.

Turn the dough out into an oiled bowl (and turn it over to coat it in the oil) to rise for about 30 minutes.  Punch the dough back down into the bowl and let it rise again for about 30 minutes.

Don't get too crazy about keeping track of the time.  If you let the dough rise too much, it will climb out of the bowl and onto your kitchen counter in an attempt to take over the world... or at least your kitchen.  Temperature and humidity do change the time it takes for the bread to rise.

Turn the dough out onto a wooden cutting board if you have one.  The oil from the bottom of your bowl should keep the dough from sticking.  If not, add a bit more.  Lots of books and people will tell you do lightly flour the work surface and your hands.  I'm telling you that it's a bad idea.  That flour never gets worked into the dough, leaving streaks of tough bread.  However, if you want a bread that is very crusty on the outside, using a bit of flour does promote that.

Cut the dough into four equal pieces.

Shape the dough into loaves.  Make sure the work the dough enough to get rid of air bubbles and tuck any "seams" under when you place the dough into the pans.

Let the dough rise until it is peeking over the top of the pans.

Place the dough in a 375 degree oven, leaving some space between pans.  Bake for about 10 minutes and then reduce the oven temp to about 325 degrees.  Cook another 10 to 15 minutes until the bread is a beautiful brown.


1 comment:

  1. There is nothing better then home made bread!!! I can remeber Grandma making bread every Thursday. You have inspired me to try and bake bread once a week this summer. I love the smell of yeast in the morning. I will let you know if I make it.


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