Thursday, February 23, 2012

My Favorite Bread Recipe


Recently a friend mentioned the book 'Make the Bread, Buy the Butter' so, I picked up the book and have found it quite worthy. I can't tell you how many times in my life, I've decided to not ever buy bread, but to always bake it. There are times that happens, but much less than it should. A friend, Char, back in Michigan, always has baked all the bread that they use. I worked with her husband and he had the best looking sandwiches in the lunch room, that's for sure. Char has a recipe that she consistently uses and has it down to a science. She uses some whole wheat flour and oatmeal in it for a hearty healthy bread. She always bakes on one day a week, which I think is Tuesdays. Sometimes she makes a mini loaf also with some of the dough and takes it to a friend. (yummmm!!)
My favorite recipe doesn't have whole wheat flour, although it could, and upon occasion I'll toss a cup or so of whole wheat in , but this is just so good with just regular flour. Not a real light bread, it's been my 'go to' recipe for a very long time. From a bread cookbook published by Farm Journal. Remember that magazine? If you lived in an agricultural area, you probably do. Published in 1969, this book is well worn, and not shiny or with awesome pictures. Just good bread recipes from country kitchens. The page with this recipe looking like it's gotten hit with some baking debris over the years. HAH!
I made a batch today to enjoy with my son and daughter in law when they come to visit (tomorrow!!) as I said, it's good for toast. Actually my recipe book says 'This bread makes superlative toast'. Easy to make, so don't hesitate to try if you've never baked bread, what do you have to lose? Right? I am altering the recipe instructions to make them more 'modern' since they didn't have microwaves then.

Rich White Bread
1 c milk
2 T sugar
2 t salt
2 T butter (or margarine)
2 pkg yeast
1/2 c warm water
2 eggs
5 1/2 to 6 c flour

instead of milk, I usually bake with powdered milk. It's less fat, you can add extra for calcium, and you don't have to use the last cup of milk in the refrigerator.
warm the milk in the microwave to lukewarm. (if you are using powdered milk, warm water to lukewarm and put the powdered milk in the bowl, pouring the water over it. Use water you have boiled (from the tea kettle?) if you have it. The chlorine in city water is detrimental for your yeast although it still rises, it's better to have water that isn't chlorinated. boiling water takes the chlorine out)
Pour the milk into the mixing bowl. and add sugar, salt, and butter.
in another cup put 1/2 c warm water and the yeast, stirring to dissolve.
Let it rise a bit in the cup and then add to the milk mixture. Add 2.5 c flour and beat for 2 minutes. Add the eggs. Blend in . Add remaining flour a little at a time until the dough leaves the side of the bowl as it is mixed. You probably won't add all the flour. You don't want the dough to stick to your hands, that's how you know you have enough flour. By this time you are stirring by hand, or using a stand mixer with a dough hook.
Let the dough sit for 10 minutes. Then knead it adding flour as needed until the dough is soft and elastic. About 8 to 10 minutes (stand mixer makes this again, so much easier) The dough will be smooth
put the dough into a bowl you greased lightly (Pam) and cover with a nice clean dish towel you run hot water over and then wring the water out of. (I use a smooth flour sack type dish towel for bread rising)
Let rise until doubled about an hour
punch down (that's the fun part... push your fist into the dough over and over to press it back down. My kids loved to do that job) Let it rise again. It's that second rise that makes bread nicer. And this rise is about 30 minutes.
Cut the dough in half and shape into loaves. Put in loaf pans that are greased. Cover and rise until dough reaches top of pan (a tad higher than that) bake 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes. Keep an eye on it and when it looks like it's pretty, golden brown, rap the top of the bread with your knuckle. Does it sound hollow? Then it's done.

My friend Barb mentioned her bread machine. Right..... I should have mentioned, you can cut this recipe in half for a bread machine. Put the ingredients into the machine, dry ingredients first.
also, the best bread machine bread, is when you use it to mix, knead, and rise. Then form the dough into a loaf, put it in a loaf pan, rise, and bake in the oven.

A good thing about this recipe is if you want a slice of warm bread, and so does everyone else in the house, you still have a second loaf for sandwiches etc.
The bad thing about baking bread is you have to plan your day around when you need to bake it. It's easy to run to the grocery or go for a walk when the bread is rising, but you can't go to the mall or something. So I bake on days that I know we'll be around the house.

Enjoy!

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