Maui Girl Cooks

“One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.” Luciano Pavarotti

Life is too short to eat mediocre bread, and there is a lot of it out there.

3 Comments

Bread baked and cut final

One of life’s great pleasures is the aroma of yeasty bread dough in the oven, transforming itself into a beautiful, delectable, crusty loaf of bread.  If you have never baked homemade yeast bread, you are in for a treat.  It really doesn’t take a lot of time; you can have delicious bread from start to finish in 3 hours or less, depending on the bread.  Much of that time is rising time, so you can be doing something else, like making soup or salad to accompany your freshly baked bread.

It isn’t just the smell that is enticing though.  Bread dough feels good in your hands.  Not so much at the beginning, when it is a sticky, shaggy mass of dough…

Rough shaggy dough final

but when your mindful kneading transforms it into a silky, supple ball of dough, it is a pleasure to behold.  I find kneading bread to be therapeutic and calming.

Kneaded bread final

I have been making yeast breads by hand for many years, although I am certainly not an expert on the subject.  I will say that I am not a fan of bread machines.  Perhaps I had a bad experience with one.  My mother-in-law had a bread machine when they first came out, and she made some tasty breads.  She enjoyed hers so much that she gave one to us.  I used it a few times.  It was nice to wake up to freshly baked bread courtesy of the bread machine, but it had a hole in the middle of the cylindrical loaf.  I could live with that, but the outside of the bread was slightly burned when the inside was undercooked.  So I decided to try letting the bread machine do the kneading, and I would bake off the loaf the “old fashioned” way.  Doing that deprived me of the pleasure of getting my hands into the dough and experiencing that lovely change in texture from rough to silky smooth.  Bread machine?? Not for me, thank you very much!  I gave ours away to an appreciative uncle.

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Whole Wheat Rye Potato Bread

1 medium sized potato
reserved potato cooking water
2 packages dry yeast
2 tbsp butter, cut into small chunks
2 tbsp honey
1 tbsp kosher salt
1 cup warm milk {low fat is fine}
3-4 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups dark rye flour
3 tbsp coarse cornmeal + 3 tbsp ground flax seeds + whole wheat flour to make 1 cup
3tbsp caraway seeds {or fennel, anise or a combination of them}

Peel & dice the potato.  Cover with water & boil until potato is tender, about 15-20 minutes.  Save 1 cup of the potato water {add hot tap water if you do not have enough}.  Mash the potato & set aside.

In a large bowl, mix together 3 cups whole wheat flour, rye flour & cornmeal/flax seeds/whole wheat flour mixture.  Keep the additional cup of whole wheat flour in case you need to use it.

Pour the {not too hot} potato water in another large bowl, then sprinkle in the yeast & stir with a wooden spoon.  Add the butter, honey, caraway seeds and salt, and then stir in the mashed potato {approximately 1 cup}, warm milk & 3 cups of flour mixture.  When you add the yeast to the warm potato water, it will begin to activate.  It will begin to get bubbly as you add the remaining ingredients & will look like this. . .

Bubbly yeast final

Beat until smooth, and then add enough additional flour to make a stiff dough.  When it gets hard to incorporate any more flour with the spoon, turn the dough out on a lightly floured counter.  Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes.  Wash the bowl in which you mixed the dough, butter it and then place the dough back in the bowl, turning to coat all sides with butter.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel & let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.  This should take 45-60 minutes.  I like to turn on the oven for 2 minutes, turn it off and then put my bowl of dough in the toasty warm oven to rise.  Don’t forget to turn off the oven or you will bake your bread prematurely!  I have heard that the pilot light in a gas oven has enough warmth to be a good place to let bread rise, but I have never had a gas oven, so can’t vouch for that one.

How do you know when your dough has doubled in bulk?  It is difficult to “eyeball it” so there is a little test you can use.  Poke 2 fingers into your dough after it has risen for 45 minutes; if the indentations remain, your dough is ready for the next step.  If not, cover it back up for 15 more minutes & repeat the test.

Indentation test to see if dough is finished rising final

When doubled, punch the dough down, cover and let rise again in a warm spot for 20 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured counter & knead for 1-2 minutes.

Now you are ready to shape your loaves!  Divide the dough into 2 equal pieces {I use my kitchen scale to do this} & shape.  You can either sculpt the dough into a loaf with your hands, or you can do it jelly roll style, as shown in the slideshow {right before the recipe}.

Note about yeast:  When you are adding warm liquids to yeast, make sure the temperature of the liquid is between 100 & 115 degrees Fahrenheit.  If your liquid is too hot, you risk killing the yeast & your bread will not rise.  Be sure to check the expiration date on your yeast to verify that it is not outdated.  It may still work. . .or it may not.

Enjoy the kinesthetic, aromatic & flavorful joys of baking your own yeast bread. . .and don’t forget the butter!

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3 thoughts on “Life is too short to eat mediocre bread, and there is a lot of it out there.

  1. Pingback: Potato Bread | Simple and Complex

  2. Pingback: Bread baking – sixth loaf | Richard's Blog

  3. Pingback: A Delicious Loaf | Maui Girl Cooks

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