Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Yesterday I needed to be able to do something and know it would turn out the way I expected it to. Knitting is obviously not the answer to this, as it can be a devious bitch.

When I was little, Mom taught me to make bread. I have no idea why she did this. I believe I'm the only one (out of three of us) who baked bread. The upshot of this is that bread is one of the few things I can bake with confidence. Yesterday after work, I baked whole wheat bread.

It's the same recipe Mom used with the exception of substituting about half the flour for whole wheat. It makes two loaves, and I think I will give the second to my in-laws. They're good peeps.

I have no idea where the recipe came from, so I can't give proper credit. I can tell you what I do though.

2 packages dry yeast
2 cups water (pretty hot)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1 T. salt
6-8 c. flour, half bread flour and half whole wheat flour

Dissolve yeast in water. Add sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and salt. Mix well. Add 3 cups bread flour. Mix well. Add remaining flour gradually while mixing with a dough hook on your mixer.

If you don't have a dough hook, add cups 4-6 of flour gradually, mixing well. Turn out on to a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, adding flour as needed when the dough gets too sticky.

The dough should stay together and be elastic when it's finished. I've found with the dough hook I actually use more flour than when I hand knead. This makes no sense to me, but there it is.

Put the dough in a bowl with a bit of vegetable oil in the bottom. Put in a warm place to rise for an hour. Mom taught me to put a casserole pan (9" x 13") of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven and then put the bread in the cold oven on the rack above the pan. The hot water and enclosed space means the bread has a warm, humid place to do its thing. If your oven is in use, stick the bread bowl on a wire rack above a casserole dish filled with hot water and cover the bowl with a tea towel.

Once it's doubled in size (about an hour), give the bread a KAPOW! punch. I have no idea why you do this, but you do. Perhaps it's to get air bubbles out, but I find it just as likely that it's a stress reliever. Use a table knife to cut the dough in two roughly equal pieces. Knead them on a slightly oiled counter a few times, then squish it into a rough rectangle. Roll it from the small end. Press the ends tight to seal them and fold them under. Press the bottom seam of the roll into the loaf. (Just make something roughly the size of a bread pan, and squish it until you're happy with it.)

Put each half into a loaf pan that's been oiled. (Vegetable oil is a theme here.) Put back in oven for another hour to rise. I typically replace the water in the casserole dish with new, hot water.

Once the bread has doubled in size, take it out and preheat the oven to 375. Bake both loaves together for 30-35 minutes. Rub tops with butter, run a table knife around the edges to encourage it to leave the pans quietly and with a minimum of fuss, and turn out onto a rack. Attempt to wait patiently for them to cool a bit, then slice and eat with butter. Or jam. Or both. My in-laws swear by making grilled cheese with this bread, but I like it warm and with plain old butter. (Well, not butter, but some light version that only slightly resembles butter. Use whatever floats your boat.)

I know baking bread isn't going to appeal to everyone. It only appeals to me because I have nice memories of doing it growing up and I feel confident that it's going to behave as expected. If the idea of bread doesn't appeal to you, I encourage you to find something--a recipe, a walk, a movie, a book--that is predictable.

Then when the world goes sideways, you can know that there is something that can be trusted.

Note: In rereading this post, I realize I sound overly dramatic, as if there's some great chaos reigning in my life. There isn't. I'm happy. Andrew's happy. Everything's good. But there is no sun and my anxiety level is higher than I'd like it to be. So, I bake bread. It's better than a crack habit.

1 comment:

  1. Close your eyes and count to 10 slowly three times. It's a silver bullet for anxiety and we wouldn't want your house to fill up with bread. :) Looks yummy, though, might have to give it a shot.