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

A Delicious Loaf

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“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.” – M.F.K. Fischer

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I’ll start by apologizing for my finished bread looking burned; it was not burned.  No matter how I aimed my camera, part of the loaf looked black, which is why the picture is cropped.  Sometimes a photo just doesn’t do justice to its subject.    Now that that is out there, let’s move on.

I love baking yeast breads because I find it relaxing and therapeutic.  Not that I’m necessarily in need of therapy when I decide to bake some crusty, yeasty and delicious loaves.  It’s just that it feels good to get your hands in the dough and feel the magical transformation from wet sticky dough to dough that is silky and elastic, and a pleasure to touch.  Homemade bread actually engages all of your senses-

~There is the smell . . . yeasty fragrance wafting up from the bowl of blooming yeast.  “Blooming yeast” sounds like a British expression; in this case it means to put the dry yeast into warm water to dissolve and begin activating, so your bread will rise properly.

~ The tactile nature of bread dough is that it goes from sticky to silky, shaggy to supple

~ Visually appealing is your bread when it emerges from the hot oven, golden and brown, like it just spent the day on a glorious tropical beach {Maui??}

~ If you were able to achieve a nice crisp crust, you will hear that crust shatter when you tear or cut into your beautiful bread.  Maybe it’s the kind of crust that sends pieces of toasty shards over the edge of the counter to the floor when it’s cut.

~ Last but not least is the taste . . . yeasty, whole wheat flavor {or maybe rye} made better with thin slices of good butter.  Or perhaps you have chosen a smear of fresh goat cheese, or a dip in some fruity extra virgin olive oil showered with freshly ground salt, pepper & herbs.  My dear readers, it doesn’t get any better than this!

For tips on baking yeast breads {proofing the yeast, shaping the loaves, etc.} click here.

This recipe produces a bread that is dense, chewy and slightly sweet, with a crisp crust when toasted.  We had a turkey sandwich on it a couple days ago, and it was most excellent.

Whole Wheat Oatmeal Honey Bread

adapted from Honey Oatmeal Bread from Bread Winners {Mel London, 1979}

2 cups boiling water

1/2 cup mild-flavored honey

2 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tsp salt

1 cup/100 grams uncooked rolled oats {not quick cooking}

1 pkg dry yeast

1/4 cup lukewarm water {I use water that is between 95 & 115 degrees.}

*3 1/2 cups/490 grams to 4 cups/560 grams whole wheat flour

*1 cup/110 grams ground oats {uncooked rolled oats processed in a food processor until you have 1 cup}

1 cup raw sunflower seeds

*I wanted my bread to taste more of oats, so one of my adaptations was to add a cup of ground oats in place of 1 cup of whole wheat flour.  Feel free to use all whole wheat flour, or other flour of your choice.

Glaze:
Honey
Uncooked rolled oats

In a large bowl, stir together boiling water, honey, butter, salt and rolled oats.  Let stand for 1 hour.

In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water.  Add to the oat mixture.  Stir in the flour, 1 cup at a time and beat well.  I start with the ground oats, and then add whole wheat flour until the dough is not super sticky.  Stir in the sunflower seeds before the dough gets too stiff.  It will be a little sticky, but that will be remedied as you flour your counter to knead the bread.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until dough is smooth and elastic {about 10 minutes}.  If necessary, add enough flour to keep dough from being too sticky.  Wash the big bowl you just used, rub some olive oil around the bottom and sides and add your ball of dough.  Turn the dough to coat all the sides.  Cover the bowl with a towel or damp cloth.  Place in a warm spot and allow to double in bulk-about 1 1/4 hours.  I turn on my oven for a minute or 2 to get it slightly warm, and that is where I put my dough to rise.

Turn out onto floured counter, knead for 1-2 minutes, shape into 2 loaves and place into well-greased loaf pans {9” x 5”}.  Cover and place in a warm spot until almost doubled in bulk {about 45 minutes}.

Bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 50 minutes.  Tops should be well browned and the bottoms should sound hollow when rapped with your knuckles.  I look for a temperature of 200 degrees when I insert the instant read thermometer in the bottom of the loaf.

For a delicious glaze, brush tops of bread with honey that has been slightly warmed, then sprinkle with oats.  It looks pretty with the honey & oats on top, but I must say that the oats don’t stick very well.  Maybe I don’t use enough honey!

As hard as it might be, you should cool the bread completely on a wire rack before slicing.  We {or I should say my husband} often finds it difficult to do this!  Enjoy the rewards of your efforts!

Bon appetit!

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

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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!