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Posts Tagged ‘Bread’

Bread Update

I’m getting the hang of this bread thing. So well in fact that I’m starting to venture out a little bit, try new things. Last weekend I made rosemary bread. Using the same bread recipe, during the initial mixing phase I added not quite 3/4 cup of fresh rosemary that I grew myself (Ok, nature grew it. But I picked it and harvested the leaves) and because I didn’t think I had enough I tossed in another teaspoon of dried rosemary. Also, I used filtered water instead of tap water because Alton Brown says that chlorine in tap water messes with the yeast.

Man, this bread was out of this world. The flavor was amazing. I took it to a little get together on Saturday night and everyone loved it. Thanks to test subject Bill for encouraging me to do an herb bread. Weee!

Oh, also – I quit using the glass dishes to bake the bread in and instead just make loaf shapes on a cookie sheet and let nature take its course. I prefer it this way – it looks more natural, more homemade and the shape is conducive to many different applications.

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I Got Sconed

Still licking my wounds from Monday’s flatbread disaster, I needed something to boost my spirits. A little pick-me-up. A little sumthin’ sumthin’ that would go with coffee. Enter my mother-in-law’s scone recipe!

1/3 cup margarine, butter, or shortening ( I use butter)

1 ¾  cups all purpose flour

3 tablespoons sugar

2 ½  teaspoons baking powder

½  teaspoon salt

1 egg beaten

½ cup currants or raisins ( I use currants)

4-6 tablespoons half and half ( I use 2 percent and it works)

1 egg, beaten

 

Heat oven to 400.  Cut 1/3 cup margarine into flour, sugar, baking powder and salt until mixture resembles fine crumbs.  Stir in 1 egg ,the currants, and just

enough milk so dough leaves side of bowl.   Turn dough onto lightly floured surface.  Knead lightly 10 times.  Roll ½ inch thick.    You can cut 2 inch circles out but I just cut it in to 6 or 8 pie pieces.  Place on ungreased cookie sheet.  Brush with 1 egg. Bake until golden, 10-12 minutes.  Immediately remove from cookie sheet

Cool 1 hour (I can’t wait that long) 

 

You can freeze this. Freeze uncovered until completely frozen, at least 2 hours.  Wrap in heavy-duty aluminum foil, label and freeze no longer than 2 months.

 About 45 minutes before serving, remove from freezer and heat wrapped in 350 oven until warm , 30-35 minutes. 

I was already a mess in the kitchen baking my bread for the week (more on this later) so I just kept right along and went after the scones. I didn’t have any currants or raisins on hand so I decided to use almonds instead. I didn’t use a rolling pin to roll it out, I just flattened it with my hands and it worked really well. Using a pizza cutter to slice the round, flat dough into eight pieces, I was feeling pretty good about myself. I put them on a cookie sheet and into the oven they went.

About seven minutes later I realized I’d forgotten to brush with them with the egg before popping them into the oven. If I’d tried it then I’d have scrambled egg topped scones. Nasty. So I let them finish without and hoped for the best. (I used the beaten egg to brush on my bread instead.)

Almond Scone

Almond Scone

What emerged from the oven is something I could be proud of. Not as golden brown and delicious as it could have looked, but let’s talk about the tasty scale. These were super yummy, had good texture and weren’t too dry. (Dry, yeah, but they’re scones…) Even Test Subject Bill (self-professed scone hater), when presented with almond scone, approved. (Though he complained about the nuts.)

Moments after I began digging into my afternoon snack, I dropped my scone onto the kitchen floor. $*#(! It was obscene. A tragedy. Luckily, I had seven back ups so a scone emergency was diverted.

Now, I promised more on the bread. I’ve been making two loaves per weekend since I started this endeavor a month or so ago. I’d been using the rapid rise yeast in packets but picked up a brick of regular active dry yeast at Costco. Today was the first time I used it. The dough ball felt lighter and fluffier, and the loaves puffed up considerably during the second rise. I just pulled them out of the oven and will report immediately on any taste/texture deviations from prior loaves once they cool off.

 

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My first forray into the old ways went waaay back to the beginning. Bread. It’s basic, it’s humble and it’s tasty. People have been making bread forever. But making bread is pretty intimidating, especially to those of us who can’t spend all day in the kitchen watching dough rise. But there are some good reasons why you should make your own.

1: Wonder Bread. The name says it all. What the heck IS it? Have you ever read the ingredients on a package? It’s scary. And if you’ve ever seen it mold you’re probably the same person who leaves a twinkie out to see if it will ever go bad.

2. “Fresh” Bakery Bread: Who made it? Did they wash their hands after they went to the bathroom? Did they use eight different preservatives? Did they use organic ingredients?

3. Restaurant bread: Ever notice how much better bread tastes when you get it at a nice restaurant? If the bakery’s bread is fresh how come it never tastes like THAT? Wouldn’t you rather have the restaurant-yummy bread?

4. It’s fun to make your own, and it really impresses people!

So my first stop was an email to my mom begging for her bread recipe. I remember eating tons of the stuff when I was kid – there was nothing better than mom’s fresh hot bread with butter. Mmmmm. She sent me the recipe, and here’s how it went:

This is a basic white bread that uses a starter. What the heck is a starter? Well, it’s a mass of yeast, bread and flour that grows on its own and you use a bit of it each time you make bread. You don’t throw it out (unless it goes bad, of course) and you feed it whenever you use it (or once a week if you make bread less than once a week).

Starter recipe:

3 cups of bread flour

1 pkg yeast or 1 tablespoon yeast

2 cups warm water

Mix all ingredients in a glass or plastic bowl, blend well and let it sit at room temperature for at least 24 hours. Now, don’t do what I did and put it in a bowl about the size of the sum of ingredients. No, this puppy is going to grow. Before I knew it my starter had doubled in size and was coming out over the sides of bowl, growing and expanding like frankenstarter. I was afraid I was going to have to move it into the bathtub if it got any bigger. (Ok, it wasn’t that big but you get the picture.) All that to say, put it in a big bowl and cover it with a piece of plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray. (Not a towel, unless you’re looking to have to throw it away – this is sticky stuff.) Also, don’t worry about that sour smell coming from the starter – it’s supposed to smell that way. Horray for yeast!

A note on yeast: I went to the store and panicked because they had two kinds – active dry yeast and quick-rising yeast. Mom didn’t specify. I used the quick-rising and it worked just fine. I now have some regular active dry and will post a note if it made any difference.

So once you’ve got your starter going and it’s all huge and happy, you can make your bread. (Don’t forget – the starter must be left alone for at least 24 hours, so plan in advance.)

To make the bread:

1 1/2 cups of your starter

2 cups bread flour

2 tablespoons (2 packets) yeast

1 tablespoon salt

1 big tablespoon honey

1 cup warm water

Combine all ingredients in your mixer (gotta love Kitchen Aide) and use the dough hook attachment. Beat until mixed well and then slowly add another cup flour. Don’t add it too fast or you’ll be making paste in your hair trying to rinse it out. Mix everything until the dough holds together and climbs up the hook. Now put it out on a floured board and slowly add more flour – Mom’s recipe called for another cup of flour but I could only get mine to take about a half cup and it turned out just fine. Knead your dough for 6 to 8 minutes until it feels spongy and not sticky. Cover it with plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray and let it rise for one hour.

After the dough has risen, punch it down like you mean it and divide in half. Roll each half into loaf shape (I did one traditional style loaf and one round loaf in a pie pan). Put both dough balls into sprayed glass bread pans, brush tops with melted butter and let rise about an hour. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

When it’s done cooking it will be brown on top and will feel hard. Don’t worry, it will soften up. Take the bread out of the pans so the sides don’t get soggy and let them cool. Cut a piece of the warm bread and enjoy right away, then wrap up the bread in plastic wrap. I plan on getting some bags to use for this because the plastic wrap can be a pain to open and close when you want to cut some of the bread.

I think this stuff is fantastic toasted with a little butter and honey.

My first bread!

My first bread!

 

 

 

Now, don’t forget about your starter. You used some of it so to the rest of the starter add 2 cups bred flour and 1 cup warm water – mix and refergerate. Whenever you use it, replace what you use. If you aren’t using it, you must feed it two cups of flour and one cup of warm water each week, otherwise the yeast will starve and you’ll have dead starter, you murderer.

I’ve done this twice now and the bread turned out well both times. The thing I discovered is that it really doesn’t take all that much time. The only labor intensive part is combining and kneading, which didn’t take me much more than half an hour including clean up time. Plus I found that I really enjoyed the kneading process. It gives you time to think, if you’re frustrated you can take it out on the dough. If you’re tired it can invigorate you. It’s got to burn some calories, too, as a little bonus.

When it’s all said and done, you have your own delicious homemade bread and quite a sense of accomplishment. Try buying that at the supermarket.

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