My gram baked a lot of bread. There was always home baked bread in her house. Now, any of you who knew her are probably scratching your head and wondering what the heck I'm talking about.
As far as I saw, she never baked typical bread, the kind you slice and use to make sandwiches and toast to sop up runny eggs. The type of bread she did always have around were quick breads, specifically zucchini bread. I always think of them more as cakes in a sneaky disguise to make you think that they aren't really that full of sugar and calories-- How could banana bread or zucchini bread be anything less than a healthy snack?
Anyway, this is not a quick bread. I promise, I'll make her zucchini bread at some other point, because it is the best gosh darn zucchini bread ever made by anyone ever, but right now I am going to make some plain ol' bread.
Making my own bread scares me much in the same way that making my own candy scared me (until I bought a candy thermometer and realized it wasn't nearly as hard as I had thought.) The bread that I made is currently in the oven baking away, so hopefully I'll decide after this that it also is No Big Deal.
(Ok, an update on the bread, after it has come out of the oven: This was not a hard thing to do, just time consuming, and I will definitely do some things differently next time I make bread. Any less than satisfactory aspects of the bread are very blatantly my fault.)
I think part of what made me shy away from baking bread is my moms bread maker. It was one of those terrible machines that turned out OK "loaves" of bread. I put "loaves" in quotes because they were more of a cylinder, and that just won't do!
The other reason I haven't made bread is yeast. Something about those weird little packets has always worried me. What if it doesn't rise? What if it DOES rise, but it rises too much and suddenly I'm running out of my kitchen like Steve McQueen in the blob? These are serious concerns.
Potential B-horror movie outcomes aside, I bit the bullet, bought some yeast, and decided to make some bread. I had to dig around in the boxes to find a non-quick bread recipe, and almost gave up hope, except that I was sure I had seen a yeast bread recipe at some point during my poking around the boxes. Literally the last 10 unchecked cards in the box contained the bread recipes. Hooray!
The recipe and potential fallout after the jump!
2 Yeast Cakes (2 yeast packets)
1 QT milk or water (lukewarm)
2 TBSP sugar
1 1/2 TBSP salt
2 TB butter
3 QT flour
This recipe was on 2 different cards. One of them gave essentially no instruction (which of course added to my bread making fear); luckily I quickly found the other more thorough instructions.
You may notice the HUGE amount of flour that this calls for: 12 cups. I had to go buy more flour for it, obviously.
Somehow, even though I was refusing to cut the recipe in half (due to yeasty fears), I was more than willing to substitute whole wheat flour for white flour, even though I knew nothing about the substitution ratio of the two. OOPS. Don't be like me. Listen to gram and her tried and true recipe!
I ended up using approximately 9 cups of whole wheat flour to get the dough to the correct texture, instead of the called for 12 if I was using white flour. In the future, I think I would use an equal mix of the two, which should work out better. I'm sure my gram would be rolling her eyes at my refusal to just trust her instructions and, to make it up to her, at some point I'll follow her bread recipe to a t. But man, plain white bread is so boring! Uh, anyway, I'll get on with the bread making, now that my explanation of why my flour is not a dainty white is out of the way.
In a large bowl, dissolve yeast, sugar and salt in the lukewarm milk (or water).
Add butter and half of the flour. I added in 6 cups of the whole wheat, unware that I would not be using all 12 cups.
Beat until smooth.
Add the remaining balance of flour, or enough to make dough that can be handled. In other words, add the remaining flour a cup at a time, until you think it looks the way that bread dough should look.
Knead until smooth and elastic.
Grease a bowl and place the dough inside of it.
Cover with a cloth and set aside in a warm place, free from drafts, until light- about 2 hours. Most of my house has some drafts in it, so I ended up setting the covered bowl fairly close to one of my heating vents.
I could have probably let it rise a bit more, but I was tired of waiting!
Mold into loaves.
Let them rise. I just re-covered them and let them rest for about 45 minutes.
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Bake loaves for about an hour, or until crusty.
I would say that these turned out OK, but, like I said earlier, it's my fault for being a punk and insisting on using different flour. It's just a really, really dense bread. I would imagine that it's a much much fluffier recipe when it's made with just plain white flour, so I'll have to actually follow the recipe next time, and let you know what happens.
I'm going to go eat a sandwich.