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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Home Baked Goodness

Our best weekends are spent working on the house together while something delicious simmers or bakes in the kitchen, filling the house with yummy smells. Last weekend I made raisin bread using my daddy's buttermilk bread recipe. My bread almost never bakes up quite like my dad's and I've always attributed it to my poorer-by-comparison kneading skills. But this time I just let it rise longer and longer until it rose up to the height I wanted and then baked it. I think it isn't my kneading skills that need improvement, it is my patience. The second rising took a lot longer than I wanted it to, probably because my oven wasn't warm enough.

I always hear people complain about how long homemade bread takes (~3 hours) and they use the time as a reason to avoid it. Or they wuss-out and use a bread machine (I totally think that is cheating, but I get so much satisfaction out of making things literally "by hand.") Making a batch of bread really doesn't take that much hands-on time; most of the the 3 hours the bread is just hanging out by itself in a warm oven rising. All you have to do is get it started then you mostly just wait around for the yeast. It is like doing laundry. You don't have to sit there and watch the machine as it works--you load the washer, do something else while it washes, then transfer the clothes to the dryer or the line, do something else while the clothes dry, and then fold them later.

Buttermilk Bread Recipe and Procedure
(Makes two loaves)
  • 2 cups white or whole wheat flour
  • 1 package dry yeast (regular, not fast-rising) or 2 1/2 teaspoons
  • 4 tablespoons buttermilk powder (in the baking section of the store)
  • 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/3 to 1/2 cup shortening (I always add more than 1/3 cup to extend the shelf-life of my bread. Plus it tastes better!)
  • 2 cups very warm water (~120F)
  • 4-5 cups all purpose flour (how much you need depends on humidity of your kitchen)
1. Mix first 6 ingredient in a large bowl (I use my KitchenAid stand mixer bowl).
2. Cut in the shortening until the shortening is pea-sized.
3. Mix in the water.
4. Mix in 1/2 cup of flour at a time (I use the mixer with my dough hook for this so I can save my arm muscles for kneading but it is totally doable with a sturdy wooden spoon).
5. Add flour and incorporate until the dough forms a ball and cleans the sides of the bowl.
6. Lightly flour a clean counter and knead the dough for ~10 minutes or until you can pull a piece of the dough and it stretches a few inches before breaking. If it breaks immediately, keep kneading. There are lots of good how-to videos on YouTube where you can learn how to knead if you don't know how to do it.
7. Wash your big bowl and dry it. Coat the ball of dough with some shortening or oil, covering the whole thing. Place dough in the clean bowl. Cover with plastic wrap.
8. Place bowl in a warmed oven--turn oven on warm (of the lowest setting) for a few minutes and then turn it off.
9. Let the dough rise for ~40 minutes, or until it doubles in size. You'll know it is done rising when you poke it with your finger and it doesn't spring back. Watched dough never rises! So this is where you go off and do something else for 40 minutes.
10. Knead it gently and quickly until dough becomes more firm.
11. Set enough water to fill a pie pan to boil while you form the loaf/loaves.
12a. For two loaves, cut the dough in half, and shape each piece into an oval/rectangle that is slightly longer than your bread pan. Fold it lengthwise and place into your greased pan. Pat it down so it touches all four sides of the pan.
12b. For one loaf you can just plop the ball of dough onto a greased pan that has cornmeal scattered on it--this will give you a giant country loaf. Or you can divide the dough into 3 pieces and braid them for a braided loaf--this will totally amaze your friends and they'll think you're a professional baker.Put pie pan in the oven, fill with boiling water, and then place loaf/loaves in the oven.
13. Let dough rise for ~30 minutes, or until the loaves have risen up above the sides of the pan. Obviously this point will be hard to judge if you're not using a pan so just use your judgement. This is the part that always takes longer than I realize. So if it isn't "high" enough for you, let it rise for another 10-15 minutes. Again, go do something during this time.14. Carefully remove dough from oven (don't set it down too hard or it can deflate). Remove pan of water.
15. Preheat oven to ~375F. I set my gas oven to ~380F.
16. Make an egg wash of 1 egg beaten with 1/2 egg shell of water.
17. Once the oven is at temperature, lightly brush tops of bread with egg wash mixture using a piece of paper towel. Those fancy pastry brushes usually tear the bread. Sprinkle with oats, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or whatever if you want. Score the tops of the dough with a VERY sharp knife or razor blade for decoration if you like.
18. Bake for ~35 minutes (two loaves) or ~45 minutes (1 giant loaf) or until the top is nice and brown. If you're not sure if it is done, you can take the bread out, flip it over and "knock" on the underside with your thumbnail. If it sounds hallow, it is done. Don't worry if the bread seems too hard--as it cools the moisture inside with soften the crust.19. Let cool completely before slicing.

There are oodles of variations on this recipe. Like I said, I made raisin bread by rolling each piece of dough out (after the first rise) and spreading 2/3 cup raisins, 1/4 cup brown sugar, and 1 teaspoon cinnamon on them.
Then I just rolled it up, placed it in the pan, and pressed it down to touch the sides.

1 comment:

Updates on Allison said...

Some people (like me) are just too lazy to make bread...even in a bread maker. Ours is holding up my cook books. I tell Edward that if he wants bread then he can do it himself like he used to in Riverside...especially since I know that he knows what he is doing.