We love homemade bread. As a kid, I remember Mom making loaves of traditional white bread. I marveled at the dough itself ... soft, warm and pliant to her touch. It seemed - no, it was - a living thing. I loved the yeasty smell, too. As the bread baked, the whole house took on a bakery scent.I drooled just waiting.
In recent years we've used our automatic breadmaker to process the dough. Then we take the finished dough out, knead it a few times by hand, fold it carefully into a traditional loaf pan and let it rise a final time the old fashioned way. We prefer the normal horizontal loaf to the vertical loaf our breadmaker produces.
But yesterday, hungry for homemade bread and having neither the time nor the inclination to mess with it, we just gathered the ingredients together, poured them into the breadmaker and stepped away. I forgot how pretty the finished loaf could be.
The classic white loaf is no more than 3/4cups water, 2 cups flour, 1 tablespoon dry milk, 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 tablespoon margarine and 1-1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast. To this we added about 1/4 cup of salted sunflower seeds (toasted, not raw).
The breadmaker isn't fast. In fact the entire process from start to finish takes four hours. And yet, being totally hands-off, we can go about our business and come back when the breadmaker beeps. That was at 7 pm last evening.
The loaf comes out of the breadmaker in this handled pan. It's hot! Because the loaf pan is non-stick coated, only the stirrer intrudes into the loaf of bread from the bottom. It takes a good rap to release it.
We've never preferred the vertical shape of the loaf except when we are tired and lazy. I think the usual horizontal loaf is easier to slice, too. To make the task a little easier we always butter the outside of the loaf while it is hot. The crust absorbs the butter and softens; the rich, sweetness of the margarine only adds to the heavenly experience of home-baked bread.
It was 9 pm before the loaf had cooled enough to bag. I slid it down into a zip-lock bag and left it sitting on our wooden cutting board. When Mom got up at 4 am, she took the first slice, toasted it and slathered it with butter. Now that's a good way to start the day.