Ok, I'll admit it: I'm a bread snob. I really am not a snob about many things, but this is one topic that I find myself quite particular about. I'm not talking about those fancy-schmancy breads that you find in your local bakery, although many of those are very good. I'm talking about the Ultimate, Quintessential, Best Bread Ever. Yes, Homemade Bread. It's my mother's fault I'm this picky :0). Let me explain.
While I was growing up, my mother made homemade bread. I think it was mostly because there were 8 kids in my family and we went through tons of bread, so there was a major financial incentive, since homemade bread, besides being infinitely tastier and healthier, is also way less expensive. Of course, being the typical I-want-what-I-don't-have kind of child, I loved the store-bought white bread (uggh! So nasty to me now, but I loved it then) and didn't appreciate the gold mine I had.
It wasn't until I was married and on my own that I really appreciated Homemade Bread. I was forced to buy the store-bought whole wheat bread which didn't compare in any way, and only then (after the fact, of course) did I realize what a great bread heritage my mother had given us. And it wasn't until I actually started making bread myself that I really realized the effort that she went to each week for us (now I really appreciate it, since when I make bread every week and a half, I'm making 12 loaves (three batches). We go through A LOT of bread. My boys can easily finish off a whole loaf in one sitting if I let them).
So during my first few years of marriage, I made bread in my Kitchenaid, but it seemed like a lot of work to go to for two loaves that we were getting through in just a few days. It wasn't until my husband's parents gave us a Bosch mixer one Christmas and a wheat grinder the next Christmas that I really came into my own on the bread-making scene.
Now my children beg for white bread (poetic justice, isn't it?), and I put in a few cups of white flour in my mostly whole wheat bread just to keep them happy. But we all love the absolute culinary joy that is Newborn Bread. That is, Freshly Baked Bread. Hot out the oven. In all of it's steamy, moist, delicious goodness. Just check out that gorgeous specimen of breadliness in the picture.
So, where did that name come from? My second son came into the house after school one day when he was about seven or eight, inhaled deeply through his nose, exhaled and said with closed eyes and a gratified smile, "Mmmmm...Newborn Bread!" So that is what we call it.
So I guess this post is about gratitude for homemade bread itself and for my mother, who instilled in me a love for it.
Here's the recipe I use (my mother-in-laws recipe--it's a bit easier and just as tasty as the one I grew up on)
WHOLE WHEAT BREAD
Note: this recipe makes 4 loaves, which is great if you have a big mixer like a Bosch, but you will need to half it for your smaller mixer.
In your mixing bowl, combine:
5 1/3 c. hot water
2 T. salt
1/2 c. oil
1/2 c. honey
5 c. whole wheat flour
3/4 c. powdered milk
2 T. yeast (Saf-instant is THE BEST yeast ever, in my opinion)
3-4 T. gluten
In a separate container, mix dry ingredients and add slowly to wet ingredients while mixing in your mixer. When incorporated, add another approximately 9 c. flour, until the dough is still very moist but doesn't stick to your finger. You can add all whole wheat flour, or some white. I add 2 c. white to appease my children, and my mother-in-law does half white and half wheat and hers turns out a bit lighter, but even if you use all whole wheat, it still turns out really good.
If your mixer can handle it, mix the dough for about 10 minutes (this helps work the gluten in and cuts one rise time out). Transfer into a large bowl and rise for about 30 minutes (if you didn't mix in your mixer, you will need to do this twice). Punch down, and separate into four equal pieces.
Shape your loaves (I learned a great trick from my MIL: roll each piece out into a long oval, flip it over and roll it tightly, pinching the ends if you need to, then put it seam side down in the pan. Rolling seems to create a better shaped loaf, I think because it adds structure.)
Rise in pans until about 1-2 inches above rim of the pans, then bake in 350 degree oven for 35 minutes (you may have to play with the temp and time, depending on how your oven cooks and what kind of pans you use).
Let cool just long enough so it doesn't burn your hand to hold them to slice. Enjoy your newborn bread! I like mine with butter and honey.
What about you? What's your favorite kind of bread and how do you like it? (I promise not to mock or look down on you if you really like store-bought white bread!)