Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Bread of Life

 I like nothing more than to smell bread baking. A homemade loaf of basic white can't be beat, though we never fail to "doctor" it a little with whatever we have handy. Often that means sunflower seeds.

 Our bread is a cross between time-honored traditions and modern technology: collecting all of the basic ingredients, kneading dough by hand, coaxing it to rise and then baking it in an oven. I'll admit right off that we use a bread machine to make the dough.
 When the dough is finished we take it out of the machine, place it on a floured cloth and knead it a bit by hand. Then we manually place the loaf into a standard baking pan, let it rise for 45 minutes in a warm oven (there's no other warm place in the house) and then bake it the traditional way. In this way, we produce a great loaf of classic white bread but with some of the work removed.

Basic White Bread (one loaf)

3/4 cups water
2 cups white flour
1 tablespoon dry milk
1-1/2 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon margarine
1-1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast

 We combine these ingredients and let the bread machine turn it into dough. When it's finished we work it on a floured pastry cloth briefly, form it into a loaf and place it in a loaf pan. We let this rise for about 45 minutes in a warm oven (about 100°). While it's rising, we cover it with a light cloth.
 When the loaf is risen, we remove it from the oven and hold it on the counter while we heat the oven to 350°. Baking time is 30 minutes.
 The loaf is wonderful with a handful of sunflower seeds. As you can see in the first photo, we added some to the top. But because we didn't stick them there with an egg wash, they fell off when we took the loaf out of the oven. Better to just add the sunflower seeds to the initial ingredients and have them all safely inside the loaf.

 This makes a nicely textured loaf of white bread, as basic a recipe as you'll find. Besides the enjoyment of eating the finished product, there's the unmistakable smell of yeast and fresh-baked bread permeating the house for some hours.
 What could be better on a pleasant fall day than the smell of fresh-baked bread. Add a pat of butter to a slice, pour a cup of coffee and prepare to visit heaven.

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