Thursday, January 5, 2012

It All Started Here...Bread - 2/23/11

Before Tom and I got married in 1992, cooking was not really on my radar.  I could make pretty good fried chicken and a few other things, but honestly, cooking for myself was why bother?  After we married, I realized how much I enjoyed making things in the kitchen that others truly enjoyed.  I loved to make them happy.

Well, as a kid I loved it when Mom made homemade bread.  I loved the anticipation of the bread rising, the aroma that wafted through the house at it was baking, and then...when it came out of the oven...  Always, our family would devour an entire loaf as soon as it was almost cool enough to cut.
Homemade bread is a little slice of heaven...

That fond memory prompted me to try many a bread recipe, and many of them are really good...but this is the bread that our family loves best.  This is the bread I make every week (or sooner if we've run out :) )  It's great for toast, sandwiches and is so flavorful that you can eat a slice -- without butter -- and you don't feel like you are missing anything.

If you are new to baking bread, I encourage you to just give it a try.  It's not expensive to do and so much better for you than what you might buy at the store.  And you never could end up being a rock star in your family's eyes!

By the way, in my recipe posts:
  • t = teaspoon
  • T = tablespoon
Honey Oatmeal Wheat Bread - makes 3 loaves
  • 3 C Water
  • 3 T melted butter or oil
  • 3/4 C honey
  • 1 T salt
  • 1-1/2 C rolled oats
  • 7-8 C whole wheat flour*
  • 2 T active dry yeast
 *You can use unbleached all-purpose flour.  Stay away from bleached flour...I'll be writing about that soon.  My preference is using fresh homeground whole wheat flour...I'll be writing more about that later, too!
  1. Proof your yeast.  (All that means is making sure that your yeast is still active and will make your dough rise.)  Do this by adding your yeast to about 1/2 C of the water--make sure it is warm water (no warmer than 110 degrees)--and 1T of the honey.  Gently mix together and allow to sit for 10-15 minutes.  You'll get a good "head" on your mixture if your yeast is alive and kickin'. 
  2. Mix together about 5 C of the flour with all the other ingredients for 1-2 minutes.
  3. Switch your mixing paddle to a dough hook to knead if using a mixer.  If kneading by hand, put your dough out onto a well floured surface. 
  4. Knead 10 minutes, adding 1/2 C flour at a time until dough is smooth, elastic and is no longer sticky.  If kneading using your mixer, you would add enough flour until dough no longer sticks to the side of the bowl.  If doing this by hand, do the same, adding just enough flour so it isn't sticking to your hands.  Adding too much flour will give you a dry and crumbly bread.
  5. In the bottom of a clean bowl add about 1T oil.  Place your ball of dough in the bowl, rolling it around in the oil to coat all sides.  Cover with a clean dishtowl and allow dough to rise for about 60-90 minutes until it has doubled in size.   
  6. Punch down and place dough on clean surface.  (I find that the oil used while it was rising leaves the dough tacky but not sticky.  This makes it really easy to work with.  I don't flour my counter at all.)  Using your hands or a rolling pin (I like to use my knuckles) flatten the dough to get out any air bubbles. 
  7. Cut dough into 1/3's.  Shape dough into loaves and place in greased pans.  (I really don't like these coated pans, but my new stainless steel pans had not arrived yet!  They came just while the bread was baking :) )
  8. Cover with towel.  Allow to rise about 30 mintues.
  9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake for 35-40 minutes.  A loaf of bread is typically done baking when the internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.
  10. Take out of pans to cool.  I like to brush butter on the tops...not only does this make them really pretty but also keeps the crust soft.
  11. Enjoy!  The first loaf is normally gone by the end of the day...  The other loaves I slice and put into gallon-size ziploc bags.  Into the freezer they go until we need a loaf of bread. 

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