Saturday, January 17, 2009

Bread Making

Whole-Wheat Sourdough bread and rolls

My grandmother and my mom both made great-tasting home-made bread, and I was about 23 when I decided I could do it too! Only I found out in short order that as closely as I followed the recipe my mom used, my bread just didn't turn out. Even the chickens had a hard time pecking it apart! One day my aunt had mercy on me and came over to help me out. She did it so simply!
Her basic recipe was to start 2 T yeast in a small bowl of warm water with a couple teaspoons sugar and let this work a few minutes till it was bubbly to "proof". While this sets, put
1 1/2 quarts warm water in a large bowl, add about half cup melted shortening, another half cup or so of sugar and a small handful salt. Mix this, then add the yeast mixture that had started to bubble and rise. Gradually add flour a couple cups at a time till it gets too stiff to stir in with a spoon. next turn it out on a heavily floured bread board and start working more flour in with your hands, kneading it as it becomes stiffer. Knead till it becomes smooth and elasticy, and not sticky. Put back in the cleaned, greased bowl, cover with a clean dishtowel and let rise till double. Punch down, shape into round ball and let rise again.. When risen this time, punch it down and divide into loaves and place in greased bread pans. Let rise till double. This recipe makes 6 to 8 loaves depending on the size of your pans. Bake at 350*for about half an hour or till golden and when thumped on the top it sounds hollow. Brush tops with butter and cool on wire racks. This is a very good-tasting basic recipe.
I began to look for ways to make my bread even more nutritious, so I began incorporating some oatmeal, whole wheat flour, rye flour, corn meal, wheat germ, sunflower seeds, and other ingredients, such as alfalfa sprouts, herbs, parmesan cheese........ in any and all different combinations. I learned that as long as you have a basic recipe that works for you, you can experiment to your hearts content and it will usually turn out very good. There are so many variations in bread making that are so delicious.

Kitchen Queen Amish-built wood cook-stove

I went from baking in my gas oven to learning to bake in my wood cook-stove oven. However, on most present-day models the ovens are sealed so tightly that they don't let the moisture escape like gas or electric, so I compensate for that by leaving the oven door slightly ajar the last 10-15 mins of baking. My oven holds its temperature beautifully. I also turn the loaves around a little over half-way through the baking time. This gives more even browning and makes so it the bread is not lop-sided, because the side near the fire will rise slightly higher.

I became interested in sourdough bread and began experimenting with that. My friend Emily that I worked with, gave me some starter this past year that her sister had kept going for years. It made wonderful white bread, but not being content with that, delicious as it was, I started adding other ingredients to that recipe as well. Last week I made whole-wheat sourdough bread with a bit of cornmeal thrown in and a little molasses, just a couple tablespoons, to spice up the taste. I have also made some sourdough blueberry muffins using this same starter., and sourdough apple pancakes. Sourdough bread has a very unique flavor unlike other yeast breads, and you don't have to worry about keeping yeast on hand.

My next endeavour toward bread-making is to plant a hops vine this spring and learn to make my own yeast from the flowers! I think it would be quite interesting!

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