Wednesday, February 19, 2014

DIY -- Bread

This recipe comes from a Smithsonian Folk Life Festival cookbook that I got as a premium for renewing my membership once many years ago.  My nieces would rather I make this for them than cookies.  It's great for sandwiches of all kinds, for open face toasted cheese, for plain old toast with butter and jelly, and at the end of the freshness, for French toast.

It takes about 3 hours to make so plan it for a morning or an afternoon when you are cleaning house.  You will have 2 one-hour stretches to work on the cleaning.

You need a 5 pound bag of flour; it will make 4 loaves all told.
You need at least a 1 pound box of sugar.  Do not plan to use an artificial sweetener.
You need vegetable oil, NOT olive oil or canola.  You cannot use mono-unsaturated fat to make "riz" bread like this.
You need yeast.  In all my decades of baking bread, I have never noticed a real advantage to Rapid Rise Yeast so buy the normal Active Dry Yeast.  It will come in a strip with 3 pre-measured packages.
You need your two hands.  If you buy a breadmaker, look through the included recipe book for "Italian" bread and use that.  This one is strictly manual.
You will need a wooden board at least 12 x 12 and better yet 15 x 18 for kneading.

DON'T FORGET THE SALT.  I've done that from time to time.  The bread was edible but not really good.

1 package of yeast
2 cups very warm water
2 TBSP sugar

Mix together so the yeast will dissolve and start breeding.

1 1/4 tsp salt
2 TBSP oil

Mix together in LARGE bowl.  People will tell you to use a wooden bowl and wooden utensils but my metal ones have worked just fine for decades and I can scour them with steel wool to keep them spic n span.

Turn your oven on to 150 or its lowest setting and turn off when it has preheated, leaving the door closed.
Mix yeast with salt and oil.  Add 2 cups flour and stir to mix well, but don't worry about getting rid of all the lumps. 
Add another cup flour.  At this point the dough may get too stiff to stir with a spoon, so use your hands to mix this flour in.
Put the dough on your kneading board, add a handful of flour, and start kneading.  To knead, you push the dough down and forward with one hand, fold it over, then do the same with the other hand.
After about 50 strokes you will probably find the dough sticking to your hands.  Add another handful of flour and keep kneading. 
Count strokes while you knead and add more flour every time you find the sticky parts of the dough.
I usually knead up to 200 strokes and sometimes as many as 300.
Put the dough back in the bowl, put a towel over it, and put it in the oven, which should still be warm.  Close the door.  This puts the dough in a warm environment with no drafts, making the yeast very happy.
After an hour, the dough will be puffy.  Set the oven to preheat to 150 again, then punch all the puff out of the dough, divide in two, and put them in loaf pans.  Turn the oven off even if it didn't get to 150.  Put the towel over the pans and put in the oven.
After an hour, take the towel off the pans, turn the oven on to 325, and close the door.
After 20 minutes check to see if the loaves are light brown on top.  If not, let them bake at least 10 minutes more, then turn the oven off.
When the oven has cooled down, take out the loaves and turn the pans over and tap the bottoms.  The loaves should drop out.  If you tap on the bottom, they will sound hollow.

Your house should now smell like a bakery.  Scrub your tools and reward yourself with a nice thick piece of bread, well-buttered, and sprinkled with sugar or cinnamon sugar.

This bread is crusty outside and tender inside.  If you wrap the loaves with plastic wrap while they are still warm, the crust will soften a bit.  You will need a bread knife to cut them.

You should be able to get one more batch of bread out of this bag of flour and then you will have a package of yeast left.  I'll show you what to do with that next time.  You will need a one gallon bottle of apple juice, a cup of sugar, a funnel, and two nice strong glass jugs that will hold 4 liters each.

© Patricia Jo Heil, 2013-2018 All Rights Reserved

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