Tuesday, August 10, 2010
One happy memory I have is eating fresh homemade bread. I remember the wheat grinder my mom used to grind fresh wheat into flour. The smell of hot flour was intoxicating to me as a six-year-old. I remember the wire cooling racks my mom set the hot loaves on. And I remember that first thick slice of bread, still steaming. Dense and moist, and perfectly flavored. Especially with a smear of jam or honey.
It was always a treat when my mom made bread.
But eventually, she quit making it. I'm not sure why. I should really ask her. But I only remember eating homemade bread when I was a child, not a teen. Maybe she just got too busy. Life happens, you know. And then I went to college. And she was diagnosed with Celiac disease. She definitely won't be grinding wheat for whole wheat bread again.
But that's all right. I have started making my own bread. I don't grind wheat (yet), but I make my own white bread on a regular basis. Maybe I'll grind wheat someday. When I have a grinder. And a desire to clean up the flour that mists all over everything.
Because my mom quit making bread, I never had an opportunity to learn breadmaking from her. So it intimidated me. I think a lot of things intimidate me simply because my mother never cooked them, which is a terrible reason, I'll grant you. But it's true, just the same. Once, when I was living in LA, I got a hankering for homemade bread. I'm sure I was homesick. I didn't know who to ask for a good recipe, so I pored over my cookbooks and found one in a Barefoot Contessa book. She called it foolproof.
But, I managed to blow it.
So, that either makes me a fool or...
well, I don't know.
I don't think I'm a fool. And I later got a recipe from a neighbor of my parents by way of my sister. It has always worked for me, and it is the recipe I always use. For me, it is foolproof.
I think we all need a foolproof bread recipe in our arsenal. Maybe this one will be yours too.
Homemade White Bread
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup cold water
6-7 cups flour
In a saucepan, combine milk, sugar, salt, and butter. Stir occasionally until butter is melted. Put in the mixer bowl and add cold water so it's just warm, not hot. Combine yeast, warm water, and sugar and add to the warm mixture in the mixer bowl. Add flour gradually until it's a soft dough and doesn't stick to the bowl.
Raise until it's doubled, then punch down and raise again. Put it in two greased loaf pans and raise again. Bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325 and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes.
I use instant yeast (as opposed to dry active yeast) because it's cheaper and I hate proofing yeast (when you add it to water and wait for it to bubble). The dry active yeast comes in packets or small jars. Instant yeast generally comes in larger foil bags. To adjust this recipe for instant yeast, combine the yeast with the teaspoon of sugar and 1-2 cups of flour in the mixer bowl. Once the butter is melted, add 1 1/2 cups of water to the milk mixture and make sure it's just warm, not hot. Then add the liquid to the mixer bowl and proceed to add the rest of the flour gradually. With instant yeast, it should never come in direct contact with the liquid and you don't need to wait for it to proof.