Breadmaking as a Way of Life

November 14, 2006 @ 6:40 am | Filed under:
Another contribution to the Carnival of Breadmaking. My great friend Joann sent me this lovely email with a recipe that is next on our list to try. I love her words about the joy of the process:

This bread is not hard to make but it is not
quick bread. It’s kind of old world and takes time and prep, but it
does add a rhythm to your life. You can fit this in and the joy and reward
of this process – for the making of bread can become a way of life – is
unimaginably fulfilling. I would think that someone who wove her own cloth would
appreciate this approach, at least for a time. As soon as I am done typing this,
I am going to go make a new starter. My boys have not experienced this kind of
bread making. All they know is that the sister get in the kitchen and amazing
things happen. A boy ought to know how to cook real food.

This is a versatile recipe. Add extra sugar
and you can make nice sticky buns or cinnamon rolls. Shape it into rolls or
knots or parker house rolls or even French bread.
When you are kneading and shaping loaves of bread,
be sure to SLAM them into the table. Really— that’s what the French do to make
their loaves so wonderful.
4 cups very warm water (105 degrees)
3/4 cup instant mashed potato flakes or 1 good
sized potato boiled and mashed with no seasoning
1 cup flour
3 tsp yeast
2/3 cup sugar
Mix the dry ingredients together and then add the
wet and stir until smooth. Let sit 12 -24 hours. It needs to fed every 3 –
4  days.  You keep it in the refrigerator.

To feed: Stir 3/4 cup sugar into very warm
water then add 3 TBSP potato flakes and add this to the starter. Let
it sit at room temp for  8 – 12 hours then put it back in the fridge.
To make bread:
Let your starter come to room temp before using,
then stir it and remove 1 cup for the bread.
In a large bowl, combine 1 cup starter, 1/4 cup
sugar. Then add 1 TBSP salt, 1 1/2 cups very warm water, 1/2 cup vegetable oil.
Stir (I used a whisk and whisked gently)  Now get your strong wooden spoon
and stir in 3 cups flour, stir until smooth. Add 3 – 4 more cups of flour, one a
time. (This is where you need Scott or lots of willing help to take lots of
turns stirring.)  Stir until bread is "smooth and elastic" – the dough
should be stretchy when you pull it, it shouldn’t break right off.
Knead.  To knead—this is so much fun—put
the dough on the table, push your hands into it, and push it away from you. Turn
the dough and repeat over and over until the dough feels nice and smooth. (About
5 – 10 minutes)
Put the dough into a greased or lightly oiled
big bowl, turn the dough so that it is coated with the oil (we use a 5
quart ice cream container) Place a dish towel over it and let it rise for 8 – 12
hours. (To have bread in the morning you start the previous morning, for evening
bread you start in the evening. When the starter is new, you can actually
shorten this to 4 hours if you same one day bread, but the flavor
definitely develops more fully with the really long rise time) On top of the
fridge is usually a warm enough place to raise dough.

After it has risen, PUNCH it down. Literally.
Then knead it lightly for a minute or so. Divide into thirds. Shape your loaves.
To do this, roll the dough into a rectangle, then roll it up jelly roll style
press down on each end with the side of your hands and tuck the pressed part
under. Place into greased loaf pans. Brush the tops lightly with vegetable oil
or softened or melted butter. (Experiment – different shortenings produce
different crusts.)  Cover them with a dish towel and let them rise 8 – 12
Remove the dish towel. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 –
45 minutes. When you tap the bread, it should sound hollow. Remove it from the
loaf pans right away and cool on a rack. Otherwise the bottom will get soggy. It
will slice better cooled, but who waits?
I hope you try this even though it probably sounds
like it takes years to make. It takes about ten minutes to make the starter and
then it takes about 45 minutes the first few times to mix the dough. (Until you
have built up biceps LOL). It takes about ten minutes to knead and shape the
loaves the second time. The rest is all anticipatory waiting
Variations on the theme:
French bread — decrease oil to 1/3 cup. Divide
dough into two pieces. Roll into long rectangles and skinny baguettes. Oil a
cookie sheet and then sprinkle with cornmeal (optional). Lightly oil the dough
on the cookie sheets. Unless you have French bread pans.
Cinnamon raisin bread: Increase sugar to 1/2 cup.
When you roll the dough to make the loaves, rub on some softened butter,
sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and raisins if you like. Roll up jelly roll style
and bake as usual.
You can also use the same method to make nice herb
bread.  Add what you like.
Rolls: Roll dough into balls, flatten and
Knots: Roll dough into balls, then "snakes" then
tie in a knot.
You rise (cover them with a clean
towel) and cook these on a cookie sheet. I spray my rolls (and most doughs
actually) with olive oil from a "spritzer" or just use Pam (or the generic
equivalent). It’s a lot faster than trying to brush them. Especially since my
brush is demolished and I have to use a spoon. LOL
Parker House rolls are made in muffin tins. You
roll three small balls and stick them in greased muffin cup, let them rise and
bake them at 350 for 20-30 minutes.

Joann, thanks so much for letting me share this!

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