Archive for the ‘Food and Cooking’ Category

I Knead You

I admit it! I’m a “crunchy” person. I bake my own bread, make our cereal, can and dehydrate food from our own garden, and generally DIY if I can. In this attitude, I’ve been encouraged lately by an
Australian grandmother named Rhonda Jean, who writes a delightful blog at http://downtoearth.blogspot.com.

Through her, I’ve learned to make my own laundry detergent, glass cleaner, liquid hand soap and a good many other things. Before you start laughing, may I just point out that my laundry detergent contains no harmful chemicals, works as well as yours, and costs less than $2 per gallon? Anyway, Rhonda’s blog is a delight as well as educational. Check it out next time you are feeling crunchy yourself.

On the general topic of crunchiness (?), I thought I’d post some photos of yesterday’s bread making around here. I labor under certain restrictions with my bread. First of all, for Jeff to eat it with enthusiasm, it can be as healthy as I can make it, but it has to look mostly white. I know, I know. Take it up with him.

Next, it has to be…um, squishy. He hates dry bread. In this, I agree with him, so I try to watch the consistency of the dough and length of time I bake it, etc. I rarely make bread the same way twice, but this is what I used yesterday.

My ingredients list for yesterday's baking

My ingredients list for yesterday’s baking

Home-made bread, as you may know, can be made very basic (liquid, yeast, flour, salt+(usually) a sweetening agent) or quite complex. This batch had unbleached white flour with yeast, wheat germ, and salt mixed in with it, a cup of milk, two cups of hot water, some butter, maple syrup, and a cup of oats soaked in warm water for 25 minutes or so. I mixed it up, kneaded it for about 5-6 minutes with the heels of my hands (you don’t want to sink your fingers into a dough ball), and voila!

Dough set for first rising

Dough set for first rising

At this time of the year, the house is a bit cool, so this aluminum bowl gains warmth from a couple of inches of warm water in the second bowl beneath it. This makes the bread rise more efficiently.

After a couple of risings, it goes into the greased bread pans to rise once again. This was a batch of three loaves. We only use two most weeks, so it allows me to give a loaf away. This time, the extra loaf went to my wonderful hairdresser, Elsa.

Bread set to bake after a couple of risings.

Bread set to bake after a couple of risings

I’ve known my oven for three years now, so I know that it bakes bread best at 365 degrees. Some people use 375, some use 350 degrees. Like the flexible ingredients in bread, the temperature isn’t terribly crucial.

Just out of the oven and lightly buttered on top

Just out of the oven and lightly buttered on top

I tip a loaf out of the pan to check the bottom and be sure it is done. If it is, I set the bread on a rack, take my baking brush, and coat the loaves thinly with butter.

I then commit bread-baking heresy by covering the loaves with a clean towel. I understand that for many people, a nice crisp crust is important, but my favorite bread-taster likes a soft crust, so it gets the towel treatment.

And now, it’s ready to eat. There’s just no beating warm home-made bread with fresh butter. I think Rhonda Jean would approve!

Ready to Eat

Ready to Eat and appropriately squishy