Yeast breads are fickle. And addicting. It's kind of like gambling really. You never know if you'll score big or not. Since it is a living thing, it doesn't always turn out exactly the same. It is dependent on humidity, air temperatures, temperature of the liquid you put in, the mood of the baker, or what-not. Some days it rises beautifully and is ready to hit the oven after 30 minutes. Some days it needs lots of encouragement and talking to and some extra time and it slowly rises. But it all gets eaten nonetheless.
I hesitate to write down tips as there are a great number of you that read this silly blog. And there are a great number of you that are far-better cooks and bakers than I am. But I'll share what has worked for me. If it helps, great! If you think I need to take lessons from you, well give me a call!
- Fresh ingredients are key - especially the flour and yeast. My chicken farmer friend has just lately done some wheat grinding for me. Yum. Not only is there eggs and honey coming out of that joint. Now there's flour! I'm still waiting for an orange tree and a pig for bacon.
- I almost always add one or two eggs to every bread recipe. Why you ask? Well for some reason (and maybe a figment of my imagination), the bread seems to rise better. It adds protein. And it makes the crust less hard (making the school lunches more palatable).
- If a recipe asks for only water, I use half or all milk. Lately, it's been only half. Again, a bit more nutrition.
- I always add 'stuff'. Flax seed. Ground flax. Cracked wheat. Oat germ. You name it. I have lots of bags of 'stuff' sitting around. I'll toss in a handful of whatever is close. Also, if there's leftover oatmeal from breakfast, just dump it in! As long as someone didn't actually eat on it.
- I made the mistake of allowing the Bosch to over-knead at first. It made the loaves too dense (kinda like me). Now I add all the remaining flour gradually and then let it knead it for only a minute or so. And voila! Nice dough.
- It doesn't matter what you use for sweetener. Some are passionate about not using sugar. Honey is good. But the loaves will be a bit darker. I tend to use some honey or molasses in each recipe so if I add 1/3 cup honey, just use 1/3 cup brown sugar.
- Don't let it rise too long. I like it to rise a bit while baking. Helps keep the loaves a bit lighter.
- Don't wash bread pans. Just wipe them out with a paper towel or something and put away. They will 'season' and the bread will slip out better that way.
- For sweet breads, I just tweak either recipe. I use mainly butter for the oil. Add a touch more sweetener. And leave out all the extra grains if you want a smoother texture. For the filling, use softened butter, brown sugar, and good-quality cinnamon (I prefer our local Penzey's brand).
- And the best tip of all is share it. Share it with your immediate family. With your friends. With a shut-in. Bread is something that is very simple. Yet satisfying. It's no accident that it is used as an example many times in the bible. It feeds and nurtures and shows that effort was put forth in love. And that's what makes life worthwhile.
Anyway, here's a couple recipes. The first one is my old stand-by that I used with my breadmaker. The second one is the one I've been using lately with the Bosch. Both recipes give me a consistent result. And that's important when the three young people come bursting in the door at 3:35 looking to fill their bellies.
|dough ready to pull out of mixer|
|raised and ready for pans|
|into the oven it goes|
|yum! want to come over?|
The "Chef's" Bread"
1 1/3 cups milk - warm in microwave about 2 minutes
1/4 cup canola oil (you can use butter instead)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons sweetener (white or brown sugar, molasses, or honey) * I use a touch of molasses and the rest brown sugar
4 cups unbleached bread flour
3 teaspoons of yeast
2-3 tablespoons ground flax \
2 tablespoons of wheat germ - none of these three are necessary, but it's what I do
a sprinkling of flax seed /
Put in bread machine and set on dough setting. When dough beeps (often mine is ready before the dough cycle is over) take out of bread machine pan and let sit a couple minutes. Then knead it down and separate into two loaves and put in pan. Raise for 30-40 minutes (until it is over the pan rim). Bake at 350 for 24-25 minutes. Immediately remove from pans.
This recipe can easily be done by hand. And it can be doubled if you want four loaves.
The "Bosch Bread"
1/2 cup warm water
3 packages of yeast (or almost 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup bread flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
Put those ingredients in the Bosch mixing bowl. Stir it up a little bit. Let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast starts to bubble.
2 cups quick cooking oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
4 1/2 cups warm water/milk mix (I microwave it for 3 minutes and that's about perfect. Make sure it is 110 degrees at least.)
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
2/3 cup brown sugar (or replace with molasses or honey)
2/3 cup canola oil (you can use some butter in place of the oil)
10 cups unbleached bread flour (you can add additional whole wheat here if you like)
Measure oats, water/milk, whole wheat flour, salt, 2/3 cup sugar, and 2/3 cup oil into mixing bowl. Mix on low speed for 1-2 minutes. Increase speed slightly and begin adding bread flour 1 cup at a time until the bread separates from the bowl edge. It is normal for the dough to be sticky on the bottom yet.
Place dough in big bowl and rise in a warm place. I put it in an enclosed oven that is warm with a damp towel over it. Let rise for one hour or until double in size.
Divide dough into six pieces and put in pans. I usually bake a few bigger and smaller loaves. Or make some round loaves on a cookie sheet. Cover with a towel and let rise for almost an hour. Start oven about 30-40 minutes after you put in the pans.
Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (or longer if necessary) until the tops are brown. Transfer to the cooling racks to cool completely (unless your family is starving and want to slice it when it's hot).