Baking Bread In My Farmhouse Kitchen
This winter I started to bake bread again. Now I make it every few days and my family loves it.Years ago, I did have a bread maker that fascinated me. This machine made bread making so easy. Dump all the ingredients in, shut the lid, listen to it kneading the dough and in a few hours and without flour all over the counter tops – Magic happened- homemade bread. I know people who swear by their bread makers. It was a kitchen miracle. Sort of like the slow cooker- that “set it and forget it” technique that busy people love. However I do not like square dense bread and my bread never had the flavour or texture that I was looking for. I hated the clean up and it took up so much room in my already appliance- burdened kitchen. So I packed it up along with my electric can opener and donated it to the local thrift store.
If we are all going to put on weight it should be with something delicious shouldn’t it? Most people think that making bread is too difficult and complicated so they leave it to the professionals or a magical machine. Considering that fresh bread costs around $4.00 at bakeries,why not make your own? Working with yeast seems to be stressful. Good news,the new types of yeast are practically fool proof. I want to share with you an incredibly delicious and easy bread recipe. Another wonderful feature of this recipe is that once you master the basics you can make cinnamon bread, rolls and even focaccia.I promise you that you will be making this fantastic bread all the time.
Recipes that cut down on preparation and clean up time are great to have in your repertoire. I like to use instant yeast because you can add it directly to the flour so there’s no need to proof the yeast. One less step and I love that. Proofing, a stressful part of bread making has now been taken away. What could be easier than combining all the ingredients stirring them together and then letting magic happen? Baking bread is like alchemy to me. No kneading means it is less stressful, less time and less clean up. After all,bread making can be a messy business.
I came across a few recipes that were no-knead and that were seemingly easy to make. What you really needed was time. With these recipes you can’t really “set it and forget it”. If you use a recipe that requires less yeast and hence more rising time, that is a dough that you can do it overnight. I am too impatient for that.
Another great detail about this bread is not only is it a no knead bread, you don’t have to shape it. You just pick up the the proofed dough, roughly shape it into a loaf and drop it into the prepared pans. Using Rapid Yeast makes it possible to start the bread after lunch and have it ready for dinner.
Baking bread for me making is my kitchen yoga. I love watching what yeast does and how it transforms such basic ingredients. Homemade fresh bread touches something spiritual- it says to family and friends that you care, because you took the time to make something that brings back and begins new memories. This is how I feel about bread making…
To make this type of bread you need to be around to monitor the proofing. Last weekend when guests were to arrive, I had started making my bread and the power went out for 7 hours. My strategy was to keep punching the dough down and all the while praying that the electricity would come back on. Even after 7 hours, the bread turned out perfectly.
I have spent decades in kitchens and I will admit that I have been enticed by many aromas, but there isn’t any other aroma that I find more compelling then the smell of bread baking.
Of course there are thousands of different types of bread recipes and everybody has their own hints and tips and techniques. Some people prefer whole-wheat and its many iterations, but I prefer good old-fashioned white bread served with my homemade preserves.White bread is a clean canvas to highlight the vibrant fruit flavor of my preserves. I put lots of work into my preserves. I take ripe fruit, half the usual sugar and fresh lemon juice and then spend a whole lot of time stirring and watching carefully to prevent scorching and for the moment it sets.
What makes this bread so special? I think it’s the brushing of the loaf pans with melted butter and the use of cornmeal, which gives a wonderful texture and flavour. I also think that it’s brushing the cooked loaf with more butter right after comes out of the oven is what it makes it over-the-top delicious. Better still it slices well and keeps well at room temperature and freezes beautifully, it makes fantastic croutons, sandwiches and French toast. Last night I made a panzanella salad with tomatoes, herbed croutons, basil and vinaigrette with the left over end pieces.
- Some people recommend using a thermometer to measure the temperature of the water, it should be about 110 degrees.
- I use instant or rapid rise yeast, however the recipe works fine with regular yeast. It will take more time to proof and rise.
- Some people insist on using bread flour, it is much more expensive here in Canada-I get perfect results using unbleached all-purpose flour.
- Do not worry if you find you need to add more water-add it around the outside of the bowl and drag it into the centre of the dough. Make sure that if you are adding extra water you only do so a little at a time. Once you add something you can’t take it out.
- I use stainless steel bowls and before I start to make the dough run them under warm water to take the chill off the bowls-really needed in a cold farm house kitchen in the winter.
- I offer the choice of cooking spray for ease but I use melted butter on the inside of the loaf pans. I do not like the taste of aerosol oil so if you can locate oil with a pump I suggest you use it. As with any oil, make sure to test for the freshness of your aerosol spray as it can go rancid. I use a pastry brush to oil the saran wrap. Remember to keep the saran in between proofing-it makes another kitchen job I hate which is handling plastic wrap, ( this issue goes back to my catering jobs which involved hours of handling plastic wrap each day) something I only have to do once.
- As for the Proofing,that can be a challenge in a cold farmhouse kitchen. Some home cooks suggest the top of your refrigerator or clothes dryer, some in an oven that has been set on the lowest setting, some suggest the microwave heated, turned off and then closed. I set mine near the heater that I use to keep warm as I work, (I think you can see how cold this old farmhouse can be) the dough rises very quickly and I can keep track of it. Watching the dough change and grow is a part of the thrill of bread making that I always love.
- Make sure to let the bread cool-Everyone will be drooling but it does need to rest before slicing for best results.
I doubt that there will be any leftovers however if there are – Toast the next day or heat up in a cast iron skillet with a butter, use in french toast or a bread pudding. Some people like to use it a grilled cheese or Monte Cristo sandwich. It is also great cut into slices and made into crisps to eat as a snack or with your favourite cheese. I make the bread into croutons they are delicious. I drizzle the cubed bread with olive oil, kosher salt and black pepper and herbs. I toast in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until crisp. Sometimes I also add a dusting of smoked paprika-delicious in soups or salads.