}]; Noreen's Kitchen: 02/01/2012 - 03/01/2012

Friday, February 3, 2012

Extolling the Virtues of Home Baked Bread

    What could smell better than fresh bread? What could taste better than fresh bread warm from the oven, dripping with fresh creamery butter? In my opinion, nothing falls into the category of homemade goodness better than bread. Bread is simple, it has few ingredients yet it remains a mystery to many. In our modern day world of fast convenience, we often reach for a cello wrapped loaf while running into the market to pick up a few things for dinner. We never really give it much thought. But I think we should.
    When you spend time baking your own bread, you realize exactly how simple bread really is. A perfect combination of just the right ingredients, just the right amount of time and just the right amount of tender loving care can produce a life sustaining staple for our families. I think we take bread for granted.
   Bread is there, it's always there, until it's not, and then we cry because we are out and trudge to the store to buy yet another plastic wrapped loaf of cardboard bread.  We use it for everything, sandwiches, toast, crumbs, casseroles, you name it, we use bread in many things, every day.  Who would think of eating a burger without a bun?  Who eats a PB& J without a nice slice of bread?  Probably not many, I'd venture to guess that even people who eat low on the "carb" chain still crave bread.  Bread is simple and it makes life easy.  A sandwich is a complete meal, eggs are not the same without a piece of toast and you can't have a good casserole without some bread crumbs on top!
    When was the last time you really thought about bread? Have you ever really thought about it? Come to think of it, until I started making my own every week, I didn't think much about it either. It was just easy to buy it. But when I started baking it myself, it was difficult to go back to the cello wrapped, excuse for bread that we all know and love. Don't get me wrong, a soft, fluffy loaf of Wonder bread is a beautiful thing, until you start to read the ingredients.
     Bread is comprised of few things, flour, water, yeast and salt will make a wonderful, no knead loaf of artisan style bread. Four ingredients can provide you with enough food to ensure that you and your family will eat that night. Add in a few more, like butter or oil, mashed potatoes, milk or milk powder a bit of sugar and you can produce a loaf that will rival anything you can buy at the market.
      There is something special about home baked bread. Have you ever had a neighbor bring you a warm loaf of cinnamon raisin bread? I haven't, but I have taken more than one to my neighbor. When I do, they treat me like I gave them the Publishers Clearing House big prize. They talk about it all the time, each time they see me they tell me that I should go into business.  I always thank them and I am always flattered. Going into business would certainly ruin my love for baking bread. It would make it work and work eventually turns to resentment and loathing. I never want to feel that way about baking bread.

    This recipe that I am sharing with you is one that I have been using for a number of years. It is simple, but has a couple of ingredients that may be a bit interesting to you. They amend the dough and make a perfect loaf. You may have these ingredients in your pantry already, and if you don't you will want to have them on hand once you make this bread. I promise you it is worth it. The preparation time is minimal and the rising time is no big deal. You simply go do something else while the bread is rising. In about 3 hours time you can have a couple of warm loaves of your own homemade bread cooling on your counter.

    I will warn you, though, If you make one loaf, you had better make two. It is my experience that the aroma of freshly baked bread is very popular and most people are not merely satisfied with the wafting scent of your home baked goodness. They will ultimately want to slice into that loaf, long before recommended.  In most cases, you will not be able to resist sampling your efforts either. What could be better than slicing off the heel of a warm loaf of bread and slathering it with butter? Not much, I tell you, not much.

1 cup warm water
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup instant potato flakes
1/4 cup dry milk powder
3 cups flour

Step by Step Instructions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Combine all ingredients in bowl of your mixer. Using the dough hooks, blend on low until ingredients  are combined. At this point you will check to see if you need more flour or more water. Add a little at  a time until the dough is no  longer sticky on your fingers.

Knead in the mixer for 5 minutes (

Remove dough from bowl and shape into a large round. Spray or oil the  bowl and return the dough  to the bowl. Spray or oil the top of the dough and  cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a dish towel.  Place the bowl in a warm  place until the dough has doubled in size.

Remove from bowl onto a clean surface  and simply press the  air out of it gently. Don't punch your dough, it is delicate  and while you may have been taught to  punch it, this does nothing for the  structure of the dough and does not really help to remove the air  as efficiently  as simply pressing those gasses out on the board.

Shape your dough into the desired loaf and place it in your favorite pan.

Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and place in a  warm spot until the dough is  double in size. This is a good time to preheat  your oven to 350 degrees in preparation of baking your  bread. My dough  usually takes between 30 to 45 minutes to double.

Remove the plastic wrap from your dough and place it in the preheated oven.  Bake for 20 minutes.

Place a piece of aluminum foil over the bread in the oven and continue to  bake for an additional 20  minutes. This will allow the inside of the bread to  finish baking without the top crust becoming too  dark.

Remove bread from oven and if you have baked it in a pan, immediately  remove it from the pan and  place it on a wire rack to cool. Allow bread to  cool for at least 30 minutes before attempting to slice.