When times get tough
And pressures seem intolerably high,
I get a yen to give the yeast a try
And taste and smell the ancient real bread stuff.
Is it the punch and knead that mends my soul?
The elemental peasant hidden deep?
Or fragrant smells of childhood long asleep?
The shiny growing life within my bowl?
Oh blessed time of trial turn on your heat
For I am yeast-swell, bubble, double, rise!
As I pass on to younger nose and eyes the Magic, healing nuances of wheat.
Written by Mary W Lutzke, published in The Encyclopedia of Country Living, 1977.
Making bread by hand is as much therapy for the soul as it is food for the body. I love the way the house smells on bread-making day and I love the sense of satisfaction I get from kneading the dough. And you do have to get your hands dirty….making bread involves learning to get a “feel” for the dough. You must try making bread a few times to get an understanding of how much flour to add. If your early attempts at making the perfect loaf are not stellar, the good news is that you will learn from your mistakes how the dough needs to feel in order to get the perfect loaf. In short, use a tested recipe and make sure to use the kind of flour indicated to get the best results. The best advice I can give is this: A white flour dough has just the proper amount of flour and kneading when the dough becomes smooth and silky. If you keep adding enough flour to whole wheat dough to keep it from being sticky, you will end up with a dry hard loaf. Experience will help you gauge just the correct amount.
On kneading….I think this is the fun part of bread making. The dough begins as a soft gooey mass and finishes as a silky controllable orb. To knead you lightly flour a flat surface. Dump your dough onto the surface and sprinkle with flour. Begin bringing the side furthest away from you towards the center of the dough and then using the heels of your palms push toward the top center of the ball. Turn the dough a quarter turn and sprinkle with flour. Repeat the process but be cautious about how much flour you add after the first few turns. Work the dough with as little flour as possible until the glob is smooth and can be worked without sticking. If your dough still has holes that develop during the knead, keep working because the flour has not been properly incorporated. A parting tip….you cannot add moisture after you begin the kneading process or you will end up with an unworkable glob!
Let’s begin with a white bread…
You will need a large bowl! and I prefer wooden spoons to mix the dough.
1/2 c warm water
1/2 tsp sugar
2 pkgs yeast (or 5 tsp dry yeast)
2 more Cups of warm water
5 T sugar
1 tsp salt
2 T butter
5 1/2 c white bread flour
Dissolve yeast in 1/2 c warm water with 1/2 tsp sugar. Mix the 2 c warm water with sugar, salt, melted butter and then stir into the yeast mixture. Beat in 2 cups of flour, then add 1 cup at a time until dough is stiff enough to turn out on a floured board. Let rest for 10 minutes and then knead until smooth and elastic. Put in greased bowl and cover. Make sure you turn the dough over in the bowl so that both sides are greased. The ungreased side would form a crust.
Let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk. Tip: The dough will hold its shape after 2 fingers inserted in the top of dough are removed. Gently knead down and shape into 3 loaves, place in greased bread pans, cover and let rise until doubled. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30-40 minutes until nicely browned. The loaves will sound hollow when tapped. To keep a soft crust brush with melted butter after removing from the oven. A note on bread pans….buy standard sized pans that are not covered with a dark coating. The darker the pan the harder the crust.
For those of us that love Whole Wheat Bread try this recipe! It is a family favorite. I use a pastry whole wheat flour for lighter texture bread or stone-ground whole wheat flour for a coarser loaf.
2 pkgs yeast (5 tsp dry yeast)
3 c warm water
4 c white bread flour
4 T white sugar
2 T salt
1 c packed brown sugar
6 T shortening
4 c unsifted whole wheat flour
2 c pumpernickle rye flour
2 c additional white flour
Dissolve the yeast in 3 cups warm water. Add flour, sugar, and salt. Let sit in warm place for about 20 minutes until bubbly. Combine brown sugar, shortening, and 1 cup hot water. Let cool to lukewarm and add to risen mixture. Add whole wheat flour, pumpernickle flour, and remaining 2 cups of white flour. Mix as long as you can, then turn onto floured surface. Knead for at least 15 minutes until dough is controllable and elastic. Place in greased bowl and turn. Cover with towel or plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until double in bulk (about 1 hour). Turn onto well floured surface and separate into 4 balls. Shape into 4 loaves and place in bread pans. Let rise, covered with towel, until doubled or about an hour. Don’t let rise too long or the dough will either climb out of the pan, or rise too high and then fall when baked. Bake until crust is brown and sounds hollow when tapped. 30-40 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on racks. Butter top of bread while hot and store in plastic bags after cooled. I keep the bags from store bought bread to use for my home made bread. It will keep about a week outside the frig without molding during the winter, but probably won’t last that long during the summer. If you are afraid you won’t be able to eat all the bread without it spoiling, wrap with plastic wrap and freezer paper and freeze until ready to use.
Other uses of home made bread…
Croutons-Cut into cubes, drizzle with oil and seasonings to taste and bake in the oven at 400 degrees until crispy but not burnt. You will need to stir the cubes once or twice to get even browning.
Bread crumbs: Cut less than fresh bread into small cubes and process in the food processor. Crumbs can be dried in a slow oven at 250 degrees until dry and then bagged for storage.
If you have questions about how to make bread, feel free to ask. I am glad to share this “Life’s Simple Pleasure” with the next generation of bread makers.