Friday, October 16, 2009

Fresh From the Oven--Homemade Bread

A couple of nights ago, I was working on the computer late at night and I heard a strange sound. It wasn't one I'd heard before. I sat very still and listened.
I couldn't figure it out.
After a minute I realized it was rain. I haven't heard the rain in this house. It sounds different in this house than it has in my other houses. I ran outside to put away the kids bikes and came in soaked and cold.
It rained for the next 2 days.
Around here rain in October is a big deal. Especially rain for more than 10 minutes. Our Octobers are usually pretty warm. This was a nice change. It was cold. It felt like fall. I wanted to get cozy.
It was time to make bread.

I love homemade bread. I love the smell of yeast. I love watching the bread rise and shaping it into loaves. I love the way the kids come into the kitchen just to smell the bread baking and the way Aaron takes a deep breath when he walks in the door and says, "it smells so good in here."
What I love the most is slicing into the loaf and spreading it with way too much butter, the steam still rising from it, and all of us eating 2 or 3 slices (OK, 4 or 5) before dinner because it is just so good.
Fresh from the oven bread--is there anything better?

Although I would love to experiment with lots of different recipes (I am dying to try my hand at brioche) at this point in my life, I need a fool proof, easy bread recipe. The one I use has no special ingredients, can be kneaded in my Kitchen Aid mixer and is an extremely uncomplicated recipe. When you have a 5, 3 and 1 year old helping you bake, it needs to be as uncomplicated as possible. This recipe is so easy that I make it once a week all winter long.

It has warmed up again. The rain is gone and it will be in the 80s this weekend. I think we'll go to the beach. But, I am glad it is going to be bread making weather again. I have missed it.

Homemade French Bread
Martha Stewart--The Martha Stewart Cookbook
(this recipe is a variation of Julia child's)

1 ounce fresh yeast or 2 packages of active dry yeast
2 and 3/4 cups of warm water
7 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour (I use 4 cups white, 3 cups whole wheat)
4 1/4 teaspoons salt (I use kosher salt. It makes a difference)
*I add 3-4 tablespoons of ground, flax seed meal to the flour. It is just a healthy add in that doesn't change the bread at all.

Proof the yeast in 1/4 cup of luke warm water.
Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl.
Add the remaining warm water and mix well.
Add the yeast mixture and blend well.
Turn onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic.
If you have a heavy duty mixer with a dough hook, this procedure will take only 4-5 minutes.

Put kneaded dough in a covered bowl and let it rise until doubled in bulk.
Punch dough down and let it rise until doubled in bulk again.
Punch down.
Turn onto floured board and shape as desired.

The dough can be shaped into rolls, or baguette shapes. I make a modified baguette shape. (The reason it is modified is because I have 2 little boys that love to roll and shape the dough and they aren't perfect at it yet. But they are getting better!)
If you'd like to see how to shape a baguette, go here. If making baguettes, you should have 6 loafs.

Once you've shaped your dough, place on a baking tray. ( I use a stone baking tray and I love the results) Let it rise, covered in plastic wrap, until doubled in size. Long loaves must be slashed along the top several times with a sharp knife or razor.

Preheat oven to 400.

Bake loaves for 20-25 minutes, spraying with water 3 or 4 times during baking. Loaves are done when they are golden brown and crispy.

Maybe you'll have time to make a batch of bread this weekend, whether it's 80 degrees where you live or 50. No matter what you do, I hope you have a splendid weekend. Make sure to indulge in some fresh baked goodies!

1 comment:

Erin McDonald said...

Can't wait to go get baking!! sound delish! thanks for the recipe