Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A lesson learned

When I married my husband I became ridiculously obsessed with "homemaking". I wanted to make gourmet dinners every night, keep an impeccably clean house, re-upholster all of our crappy furniture, and make bread every day. I remember the first time I attempted the latter. Oh that poor little loaf of rock! It was sad. It was NOT yummy. It was a brick.

I love my carbs, so bread was something I had to conquer. Had to! I made it my mission to read about it, talk with experts (aka. "older" family members), and continue trying to un-brick my bread. I started with my amazing mother in-law's bread recipe. A very basic white sandwich loaf. Her bread was always perfect and incredibly soft. Husband and I lived with them for a summer during school and I used to love to steal a few slices, smear them with butter, and nuke them until the butter melted. Holy yum!

After I felt I had "conquered" that recipe I was on the hunt for newer more exotic breads: bagels, croissants, french, rustic hearth breads, pugliese, and focaccia. I still consider myself a novice bread baker and there are still so many recipes to master. But I now feel comfortable trying new recipes and methods. (Sour dough is next on my list. I started the process of growing a starter from scratch but it died after a few days. I'm still mourning for "Fred" so it might be a little while until I get up the nerve to try again.....poor, poor Fred.)

After I was able to get a basic understanding of the how, what, and whys, I was able to start experimenting with different variations. This has been by far my favorite part about baking or just cooking in general. I love food and I love to be creative so of course that filters into my culinary expressions.

Does this post seem a little random or off the cuff? I do have a point. I promise. I've had a lot of people express to me that they wish they could sew. Sewing and bread? How do these two things even relate you may ask. Here's my point: If you really desperately want to excel in a certain medium it takes patience and a whole lot of practice. I know, it's so cliche isn't it. But it's true. The more I researched, practiced, failed, (and that WILL happen no matter who you are!), and tried, the more I learned about bread and the science behind it. This concept is true for any skill that begs to be mastered. So to any of my darling readers that want to learn something new, be bold! Go for it, and remember that with each failed project or loaf of brick you may encounter you're also learning valuable information!

Momma Pendley’s bread

2 cups warm water (105°– 110°)                    
1 Tablespoon dry active yeast                
1/3 cup sugar                                                   
1/3 cup oil
7-8 cups all purpose flour
1 Tablespoon salt

1-      In a large bowl combine warm water, yeast, and sugar. Allow to activate for 5-10 minutes. Add oil and 3 cups flour. If using a stand mixer (kitchen aid or similar) mix the remaining flour in. Add the salt.
2-      Knead the dough for 7-10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic.
3-      Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise until doubled. About an hour.
4-      Gently press the dough releasing the air, turn over, cover, and again let rise until doubled (about 45 minutes).
5-      Again, press the dough to release the air and divide dough into 2 sections. Cover with plastic wrap and allow dough to rest for 15 minutes.
6-      To shape, pat each section into a rectangle roughly 10”x 15”. Roll starting at a short end. Pull the dough as you go. When you get to the end pinch to make a seam then tuck in each end of the loaves.
7-      Place loaves in greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled.
8-      Pre-heat oven to 400°. Bake for 10 minutes then reduce the heat to 375° and continue baking for 20 minutes. The top should be golden brown.
9-      Remove pans from the oven and let them sit for 15 minutes. Gently remove the bread from the pans and brush butter over the tops of the hot bread loaves.

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