Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Daily Bread

This week on the farm, we've been baking bread:

Cutting rose hips for wreaths and tea:

And studying:
Grace is obsessed with bubble letters. She often forms her letter of the day perfectly and then creates bubbles around all of those practice letters. What's a homeschooling teacher to do? She's 4. I think it'll be okay. If she's still writing in bubble letters when she's 6, I'll be sure not to blog about it but take her straight to some sort of intervention.

And now to my favorite part of the week. The bread.

A neighbor wanted me to rinse the last grapes of the season and use the resulting water to start sourdough. This is complete bunk, in case any of you wanna-be hippie chicks had heard of dirty water sourdough through the grapevine. (Har har.) The yeast on grapes (and it is there) is completely different than the sourdough culture.

Anywhat, today we're making egg bread. It's my own challah-like recipe, further tested early this week in the kitchen of Katie's Calamities. I don't know what disaster may have befallen it in the Calamity zone, but last I heard it was nicely risen and baking in the oven.

Miri's Rainy Day Egg Bread

4.5 to 5.5 Cups Flour (I use half white, half whole wheat)

3 to 4 Tablespoons Gluten (if you use "bread flour," no need to add gluten)

1.5 Cups Milk (goat or cow milk okay here)

2 Eggs (3 if they just started laying and the eggs are tiny)

2 Tablespoons Sugar or Honey

3 Tablespoons Butter
1 Teaspoon Salt

To get ready to make bread, I let all the liquid ingredients, including eggs and butter, warm to room temperature for an hour or two. I keep my yeast in the fridge, so I take it out to warm to room temp about the same time. In a pinch you can warm up all the "liquids" in the microwave for 20 seconds or so. I'm a little heebie jeebie about the microwave. Don't hate me ... I can't help it.

So after it's all at room temp, I stir together the wet ingredients in the bottom of the bowl, then whisk the flour, salt and sugar together in a separate bowl and pour the whole dry bit into the big bowl. I then pour the yeast into a well in the top of the dry ingredients. I do this in my snazzy Kitchenaid mixer (mine's an heirloom) after lightly oiling the bowl. I don't proof the yeast first unless the girls are begging to see bubbles and discuss yet again how a little powder like that can be alive (bwa ha ha). Do you proof your yeast?
With the dough hook attachment, or your good old-fashioned muscles, mix the ingredients on a 2 or 3 (low) until they form a ball of dough. Cover with a towel and let it rest for 10-20 minutes.
Knead it again for three minutes, again on low. Feel free to add pinches of flour if it is too sticky.

Cover it with a towel again and place it out of any drafts to rise for 35 minutes to an hour, or until it's double or more in size. Punch it down a little and let it rise again.

I have no idea why I might do this. I mean, I know that I do it because my grandma always did it. But the reason behind the method? Something with the texture? Enlighten me if you know! Sheesh, writing this stuff down makes me feel like it's all in my head or something.

After the dough's all tall and about to ooze over the bowl (another hour or so later), take the lump out and turn it lightly in flour before hacking it into two pieces for the loaf pans. These should be greased and dusted with flour. Let the dough regain some of its height in the loaf pans. I never really think about how long to do this for because the kids are too busy pinching pieces of dough and dropping them in hot oil to make sorta-kinda donuts. It's my only foray into frying. But it's good.

Now that I think of it: If you handle it too much it'll be tough. I only mention this because my kids like to handle it a lot. Then I have to stop and make playdough to save the bread.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. If you like a shiny crust, brush the tops with milk or egg white about 10 minutes before it's done.

Mmm.... try to save some for tomorrow's pb&j... if you can.

***ooh! Updated to add: Katie's bread was BEAUTIFUL. She used 100 percent whole wheat flour and the loaves had a gorgeous texture. SUCCESS!***

****also! This works perfectly well in the bread machine on the "whole wheat" setting for a "large" loaf. Try taking it to work and baking it as your co-workers volunteer to do your job for you in exchange for a whiff of the yeasty goodness.****


Alexis - Chickie Momma said...

Yummmmmmmm, I'm afraid to make bread. Ok, there, I SAID it! I don't know what my problem is, maybe the fear that I'll royally screw something up, but I feel better just getting it out there.

And just for the record, my son is obsessed with bubble letters too. I don't know why, or how, or whatnot, but he is. And I guarantee they won't be doing them in college, so we'll be ok. Hang in there.

HonuGirl said...


So glad you mentioned the bread machine; I was feeling fearful of the *entire* process - now I fear only the ingredients, mixing and waiting for yeast... wait, start again -- I'm lost. hmmph, oh dear!!

Amydeanne said...

we're on a bubble letter high at our house too!

Barb said...

I so love freshly baked bread. Must make some...although, I confess that even when I was on a quest to crack the recipe code on Great Harvest honey whole-wheat bread, I used my bread machine.

I'm so glad you said this recipe works in the bread machine because I was thinking I might not be a Farm Girl after all.