Thursday, November 19, 2009

Baking Bread on a Rainy Day

I simply adore homemade bread.. who would not! Fresh out of the oven, hot and steamy, butter melting into the airy spaces. Yum! To me homemade bread is an expression of HOME...that warm, cozy place that lives inside each of us, filled with love.

As a child my Mom made bread for our family. I remember helping her knead and shape. What Fun! She let us kids each make our own loaf. We got to do the kneading of our own bread and shaping too... So exciting to watch it grow, punching it down and growing again! These little loaves where baked in custard cups. That evening, we would have our own loaf for dinner, hot with butter melting. Oh so proud to be eating something we had made ourselves!

When I went to college, I think that what I missed most was hot, homemade bread. The dining hall just couldn't even come close! After my first year, I moved off campus into a house with a kitchen and began the process of learning to make bread on my own. Mom always made it look easy.. but it took years to really get it right.. over the years housemates and friends have enjoyed my endeavors...

Between working and raising a kid, I got out of the habit of making bread. Too busy... but craving that homemade taste, I found bakery breads that came close.. our local healthy grocer bakes a Whole Wheat Walnut Bread that I LOVE! But the price is now well over $5/loaf. Well worth it but money is tight and I can make alot of bread with $5 worth of Organic Flours!

I made my first loaf 3 weeks ago and have make a loaf each week since. I pulled out an old recipe and have been working with it.. refining it to make a good loaf for sandwiches for Rebecca's lunch box.
Once you get a routine going.. it really is not time consuming to make your own bread. NO machine necessary. Last night I got the dough started just before I put dinner on the table. It did the first rise while we ate dinner. After the kitchen was cleaned up from dinner, I did the next step-shaping the loaf.  Set the timer for 15 minutes, put my feet up and relaxed. When the timer went off, I started the pre-heat for the oven and put my feet up again. When the oven signaled that it was at temperature, I put the loaf in and set the timer again... Relaxed some more, listened to the rain... and waited until the timer went off. Took the bread out and could not wait until it cooled... so I cut off a slab and spread it with butter... Yum, the best yet!
Last night's flour mix included wheat, flax meal, corn meal and millet flours with pecans.

Here is the recipe:
One Single Loaf 

Mix the following in a bowl.  

2 cups hot water
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 1/2 Teaspoons Salt

Sprinkle over the top of above mixture
 1 package of yeast 

Wait a few minutes to let the yeast proof. When the yeast is bubbly, add the following half a cup at a time and mix well. 
4 cups flour (mix of wheat, white and others)
1/3-2/3 cup of nuts (walnuts or pecans)

Mix in each half cup until most of the flour is in. It will become harder to mix with a spoon, time to knead in the last flour. Turn it out on a lightly floured board, or knead in your bowl until the dough is smooth and elastic and even a bit sticky. Do not work it until it is dry or you will have a very dense and crumbly loaf.
Work the dough into a ball, put back in the bowl and oil the ball. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise until double (about 35 minutes). Punch down and knead again adding as little flour as possible. Place dough in greased loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise again for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, start to pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. When the oven is ready, remove the plastic wrap from your pan and bake for 40-45 minutes. Remove from pan and let cool on a cooling rack.

Give it a try... be amazed by your own homemade bread! Enjoy. 


EcoGrrl said...

i love baking bread too, it's such a zen thing for me...i still do what my mom did to help the bread rise - wrap the dough in it's bowl in a towel and hide it under my comforter in bed :)

Beth Molaro said...

That's great.. We always had a gas stove so Mom would put it covered w/ a towel in the stove..
I cover with plastic then a towel... cause you need the towel! And either put it in a sunny window or on the stove if it is still warm from other cooking!