better bread

Well finally – homemade white  bread that meets all the requirements.  Good for sandwiches.  Good for toast.  Good right out of the oven and good the next day.

We’ve been baking our own bread for awhile now. It is SO much better than what you can buy inexpensively, and in most cases is better for us. I mention “inexpensive” because, I’m sorry but, the rainbo or wonder breads advertised in such glowing terms have all the nutritional value and taste of paste as far as I’m concerned and it just tans my hide to pay $5 for a loaf of “artesian” bread.

Check out what’s cooking and you’ll see several recipes for white bread that we thought were going to make the grade but, in all honesty, did not.  We’ve tried sourdough – it was so so.  We’ve tried something I found online called the “perfect” sandwich bread – it wasn’t.  But I think we’ve finally found it – just like we finally found it with Grandma’s Rye Bread.

When I realized we were really looking for something that tastes, smells and feels like white bread from Auntie’s kitchen, I went and dug out her old cookbook from December 1910. I didn’t think of it before because I don’t like to handle this precious old book any more than necessary.  The photos will tell you why, but I guess if you want white bread with the qualities of old-fashioned bread, you need an OLD fashioned cookbook. Well, duh!

Alright…I know baking bread is SO out of style in today’s mad-rush world, and most young people are going to tell me, “I can’t bake my own bread.  It takes too much time.”

In 1910 it took too much time, too.  Auntie got up at dawn, set her bread to raise, made a fire in the wood and coal burning monster she considered a modern cook stove, milked, fed the chickens, worked in the garden and then got breakfast and washed the dishes…by hand.  By the time she finished those chores, her bread was ready to be punched down and set to raise the second time.  During that ninety minutes she cleaned the house, washed, ironed, and started lunch.  I can only imagine what stamina it took to keep a home for a family of modest means in 1910.  She didn’t have any of the things young women consider essential today; no microwave, no dishwasher, no stainless steel appliances, no granite counter tops, no once-a-week cleaning lady.  She did it all, all by herself, and she did it with grace, love and good humor.

With my amazing new kitchen range, my Artesian Mixer and D’s help, making bread is a snap!  So…here’s the recipe:

Milk Bread

Two Loaves:
1 cup scalded milk (90 seconds at full power in the microwave)

When you use milk to make bread it needs to be scalded.  That means heated to just below the boil, or the protease enzyme in it slows down the yeast production and causes breakdown of the protein in the flour making the dough sticky. This enzyme is deactivated by the heat.

While the milk is cooling to room temperature, drop

1 tablespoon of  cold butter into the milk.
It will melt and be perfect for mixing.

Proof
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast and
1/2 teaspoon sugar in|
1/2 cup baby-bath warm wate
r

Measure the dry ingredients

3 1/2 cups all purpose white flour
1 tablespoon sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

into the mixer bowl and, using the dough hook, swirl them together.

When both liquids are baby-bath warm, or comfortable to the sensitive skin on the inside of your wrist, simply dump both into the flour mixture and begin to mix, using the dough hook.  (Be sure the liquids are not too warm or the heat will kill the yeast and your bread won’t rise.)

Slowly sprinkle about

1/2 cup of additional flour

over the dough as it kneads.

When it cleans the sides of the mixer bowl and begins to climb the hook it is ready to be placed in a warm place (70 to 90 degrees F.) to raise the first time. (we put it in the oven, with the light left on)

Turn it out on a lightly floured surface, knead by hand a few times to form a nice round ball, drizzle about a teaspoon of oil in a big bowl, turn the bread over to lightly oil the top, cover with a damp cloth and leave it alone for about 90 minutes or until it has doubled in bulk. When you can press two fingers into the dough and leave a clear indention, punch it down and knead it slightly, forming it back into a nice round ball. Cover the bowl and return to the warm place until it doubles in bulk a second time…usually about an hour.

Now turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface, divide it into two equal loaves and place them in buttered pans.  If you rub the tops with melted butter it will stay soft and brown evenly.

Return the loaves to the warm place and allow them to raise about 45 minutes or until they fill the pans and looks like a “loaf of bread.” I score the top of my loaves from end to end, to eliminate bulges and bumps as it expands while the oven heats up.

When the loaves look right turn on the oven and heat to between 360 and 400 degrees.  Bake your bread until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom with a wooden spoon.

see ya soon

Enjoy!

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