Wednesday, January 7, 2009

More bread

UPDATE: Despite the lack of pictures (which I promise to post tonight), the bread came out great. I did want to let you all know, though, that I did end up baking the bread for an extra 15 minutes or so. I've had a problem with loaves coming out under-done, and at 35 minutes, this was pretty light, yet. Your milage may vary and all that, but I figured I'd give you all a heads up.

Even though I still believe that I have found the Ultimatte-Assss-Townding-Bred recipe, I still like to play around with a couple other recipes. Even though the Ultimate bread is still, well, the ultimate, there is the fact that it makes three loaves. And actually, it seems most bread recipes make 3-4 loaves. After I crank out a couple more children, I'm sure that won't be a problem, but for right now, that's a lot of bread for us. (Although, my son does seem to be a bread fiend. I made the Ultimate Bread to take to my parents on New Year's Day. My mom made turkey and the usual "fixings". Darren would not touch the turkey and ate only a small bit of mashed potatoes, but ate FOUR slices of bread. But I digress....imagine that.) I know there are those who freeze bread, but I've never had good luck with that; it always dries out.

Fortunately for me, my mom found a solution for me, in an old issue of Workbasket Magazine. I give you:

One Loaf of Bread
(This is a fairly long article, but there are several good points of note in here, so I think it's worth typing out in its entirety. My notes in red. Because I couldn't possibly do this without commentary.)

It's so easy to make a good loaf of bread! While it can be done in about four hours, the entire process can be stretched over the greater part of a day, if desired; the actual time spent working on the loaf is less than a half hour be worked in quite painlessly with other home making tasks, even washing and ironing, it is so simple. (You hear that? Making bread is painless!)

You will need the following ingredients to make one loaf about 4 x 8 inches:

-> About 3 cups flour
-> 1/2 cake of compressed yeast (Can you even get compressed yeast anymore?), or 1/2 package of granular yeast (A whole package speeds rising time by half, but makes a coarser loaf.)
-> 1 teaspoon salt
-> 1 tablespoon sugar
-> 1 tablespoon fat--lard or shortening
-> 1 cup liquid, half scalded milk and half water or potato water

Soften the yeast in 2 tablespoons of the water, adding the sugar. Scald the milk, pour it over the fat to melt it and add the remaining water to cool it. (How brilliant is that! It works smashingly!) Measure about 1.5 cups flour, add the salt, and sift into a bowl. Stir into this the lukewarm liquid and the yeast mixture and beat hard, adding enough flour to make it possible to handle the dough. Turn it out on a floured board and knead it, knead for exactly eight minutes (by the clock), working into the dough as much more flour as it will take up--sift a bit on the dough and on the board under it, and continue kneading with the "heel" of the hands. (I thought the "by the clock" bit was a little insane, but since I was having such crappy luck with bread, I dutifully got out the timer and kneaded for exactly eight minutes. It turns out it was a good idea. At least part of my problem with previous breads was that I wasn't kneading nearly long enough. Now I always get out the timer. If I got nothing else from this recipe, that alone was well worth it.) The exact amount of flour varies with the type of flour, but ease of handling and not sticking to the board will tell you when you have enough. Grease a bclean bowl generously, drop the ball of dough in, then turn it over and cover all with a cloth and let it rise. (Confession: I've been using the free shower caps we've gotten from hotels to cover the bread. It works great, and it's cheap! And yes, I do reuse the shower caps [but only for baking, of course].)

If you want to make out the loaf just any time it is ready, choose a warm place for this process. If you prefer to have it ready for baking after other tasks are out of the way, this rising can be delayed by placing the bowl in a cooler place. In a warm temperature, after about an hour or hour and a half, the dough will be double in bulk. (Did you know you can let your bread over-rise? I had no idea, until Milehimama graciously referred me to Baking 911. I've had more than a few loaves that fell in the oven during the baking. If you've ever had a problem with bread, I strongly recommend checking out the link.) At this stage, punch it down and let rise again until double, which will require about half the time.

The last rising may be omitted, but it produces a finer loaf. Turn the dough out on a lightly floured board, stretch into oblong shape, and let it stand about five minutes, before shaping into a loaf.

Fold into thirds, lengthwise, stretch and fold into thirds again, into the length of your bread pan. Roll, jelly-roll fashion, and place into greased bread pan, the lapped edge underneath. Tucked into a warm corner, covered with a cloth, slightly damp, the loaf is permitted to double in size, then popped into a 400* oven and baked about 35 minutes uncovered until a golden brown. Bread that is done shrinks from a pan and resoponds to a tapping with a hollow sound. (I wish someone could "show" me this elusive "hollow" sound. I think if I heard the difference between non-hollow and hollow bread, it would make more sense to me. But as it is, I try thunking my bread, and I just hear a thud. I can not distinguish between hollow or not.)

The loaf should then be cooled on a rack or across the edges of the pan to give a nice crisp crust. For a soft crust, brush immediately with melted butter or fat.

It's in the second rising now. If it comes out photographic, I'll post a picture later.

And if it comes out like a brick, I'm going to delete this post and tell you it was Dark Molasses Bread.