Monday, July 27, 2009

Bread: The bastard love child of yeast, flour and water

Homemade bread has always been a constant factor in my life. My earliest memories of homemade bread stem from when I was first trusted with the keys to my family home. My mother would prep the dough in the morning, set a timer on her bread machine, and all us kids would stampede through the door after school for the honor of the bread heel. There's nothing quite as amazing as a fresh slice of bread, smothered in butter that melts on contact. I remember cutting slices as thick as I could manage, and how my two siblings and I would eat the entire 2 lb loaf before my parents got home for dinner. Bread never quite survived in our house. Since then, my mother has retired and now bakes her breads by hand. She still uses the bread machine for all her mixing, but she has spread out into a variety of artisan breads, and often needs to make two or three loaves a day! I don't manage nearly as well as she does. I simply don't have the time, with work and school to worry about. I do however, manage to bake bread for every special meal, and whenever I feel I really need a taste of home. Seeing as my mother is an expensive phone call away, I've had to rely on the internet to teach me the ways of the bread artisan. I've never been a fan of breads that contain shortening, I always hated the stuff when I was baking as a child. I also use whole wheat flour, where my mother uses all purpose. These factors led me to two experiments for the day: sourdough bread basic white bread The sourdough bread will certainly not be made today, as it requires you to create a starter, a living 'pet' of sorts that you need to feed every week to keep alive. Basic accounts tell you to combine one cup of flour with a cup of warm water in a jar, its 'home'. That's it! Mine is setting up house in an old peanut butter jar on the kitchen counter. Apparently, within the next couple of days, I'll start to notice bubbles and a 'beery' smell. Then I'll be able to cook with it. The basic white bread is my standard starting point. I've made quite a few loaves of crusty Italian, but these recipes always seem to contain shortening, something I'd rather do without. I'm using a pretty standard recipe: 1 cup warm water 3 tbsp white sugar 1 1/2 tsp salt 3 tbsp olive oil 3 cups whole wheat flour 2 1/4 tsp bread machine yeast I just chucked everything in order into my bread machine, set it to the dough cycle, and let it run for an hour and a half. When it was done, I pulled it out and beat it around for a little bit, flattened it into a circle and let it rise in a warm place. I usually do this by setting it on top of a pre-heated oven for 45 min, or until it doubles in size. Chuck it in the oven for 20 min at 425 F, and it's all set to eat. The bread pictured above has been rising for about.. 15 min, so it has grown visibly but still needs some time. Next post has finished pictures!


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