With the economy, in less than stellar condition, people are learning how to be more frugal. Growing up, I had the privilege, of seeing frugality at it’s finest. My Mom could make anything out of, well, just about anything! Everything was made from scratch. Once a week, we baked bread, made crackers, and homemade egg noodles (to die for!). We always had a garden and chickens. Some of my fondest memories are in a steamy kitchen on canning day, washing cucumbers, pitting cherries, or slicing strawberries. REAL frugality! We also talked. Nothing sets the world to right, like work for your hands, and a talk with your Mom. Nobody takes the time to really TALK anymore! And, until you’ve had a slice of bread, fresh from the oven, doused in butter and slathered with homemade jam, you, my friend, have not lived!
Now that I’ve made myself, and a few others I’m sure, hungry for homemade bread, here is the recipe that I’ve come up with!
5-6 cups all purpose flour (can substitute whole wheat for 1 or 2 cups)
3 tablespoons dry yeast
3 tablespoons brown sugar
3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
2 cups hot water (120-130 degrees) NOTE: I just use mine hot out of the tap. I fill up my cup when the water is too hot to keep my hand under it.
cake pan of hot water.
1. In a large bowl (or the bowl of your mixer), mix 3 cups of the flour, with the yeast, sugar, and salt. Pour in the hot water and beat 100 strokes (or 3 minutes with your mixer). NOTE: I use my stand mixer and start out with the paddle, then switch to the dough hook later.
2. Stir in the remaining flour until the dough loses its stickiness. NOTE: Here is where I switch from the paddle to the dough hook. Also, if you’re not sure, error on the side of too wet rather than too dry. The dough should leave the sides of the bowl, but still be a bit sticky on the bottom. You will have to get this out of the bowl with a rubber spatula!
3. Turn your mixer to medium speed and let it knead the dough for 10 to 12 minutes. NOTE: If you’re doing this by hand, turn onto a floured surface, and knead for 15-20 minutes, adding flour as needed, until satiny. Kneading is less about time, and more about texture. The dough should be satiny and springy. You should be able to stretch a piece until you can see light through it, without it breaking.
4. Turn the dough, from the bowl of your mixer, onto a floured surface, and knead by hand for 5 minutes. I like to finish off the kneading by hand so you squish some LOVE into the bread! It will be a bit gooey, but don’t despair! You can add a little bit of flour as you go if it gets too sticky to handle. Also, you know your yeast is working at this stage because you will often hear little “poofs” of air escaping when you “smoosh” the dough! Obviously, if you’ve kneaded the dough by hand, you can go to step 5.
5. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover it with a warm damp cloth, and let it rise for 15-20 minutes in a warm spot, away from drafts. NOTE: I turn my oven to the lowest setting, some new ones actually have a “proofing” setting, and put my bread in there to rise.
6. Punch down the dough and divide it into 2 sections. With a rolling pin, roll each one into a large rectangle, about 1/2″ thick. Starting at one end, roll the dough in on itself, into a log. Pinch the seam closed. Pinch both ends closed, and tuck them under the log. Place each log in buttered bread pans.
7. Place the loaves of bread in a COLD oven and put the cake pan of hot water on the shelf underneath. Turn the oven to 400 degrees (mine runs hot, so I usually do 375. You’ll have to play with yours and see what works best) and set your timer for 40-50 minutes. 40 usually does it for me. The bread is done when it’s golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. NOTE: Do NOT use a vintage cake pan as it can have ancient “gunk” in the pores which will leak out once the oven heats up, puddle on the bottom of your oven, and start a nice little “campfire” at the bottom of said oven…don’t ask how I know…just trust me on this one!