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Bread - Good Ol' Bread

This Month...

Editor's Comment
Michael looks at:
Farewell, Shalom and Adieu

An Open Letter from Abba to His Family

Enough With The Political Finger-Pointing!

Revisiting the Haggadah

Book Review
Unstrung Heroes

Eddy's Recipe List

The Outspeaker
Encouraging violence is never correct

Good times and bad times with Batya

Nathan Weissler
What my friendship with Michael Hanna-Fein meant to me

Marjorie Wolfe
An Interview with Paul Reiser

BC's Backlot
The Last Shalom

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My Treasure Chest

Three Symbols of Passover


Lynn Ruth Miller
How we all became part of a bigger story

Mel Yahre
A few words for my friend

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Don't let life flutter by

The Bear Facts
How I found Michael


The day is always perfect, if your home is filled with the aroma of a fresh loaf of bread. Before the recipes, let me take a few moments to demystify some of the processes of bread baking. You need not be afraid of the yeastie-beasties; they are eager to grow and help you. Do be certain that you have bought yeast which is within the period of its freshness dates, because our little friends cannot multiply, if they are dead. most of you will buy yeast in packets or jars which are found in the baking supply aisle of the supermarket. It is also available in the refrigerator section as small wrapped cubes. I like to use the variety which is labeled as being fast rising, but any sort will do.

A word to the wise; yeast must always be "proofed" or tested before using. Despite the freshness dates, it is sometimes dead on arrival. You will be very frustrated, if you go through all of your mixing, and then the dough fails to rise. Proofing assures that this will not happen. For this process, mix the yeast with the amount of sugar you will be using (you must use some sort of sugar, artificial sweetener will not work, because the purpose is to feed the yeast not to sweeten the bread), the liquid (lukewarm, not hot) which you will be using in the recipe, and a small amount of flour. If the yeast is alive, this mixture will begin to froth and grow. If it doesn't, then go buy some more, because that batch is dead.

Buy flour which is labeled for bread making. It is higher gluten than all-purpose flour, and will give you a better rise. Do not attempt to make bread using all whole wheat flour; it will be much too heavy to be appetizing. A half and half mixture of whole wheat and bread flour will give a good texture. Ditto rye flour. Gluten is the protein in wheat. It forms long fibers which trap the gasses emitted by growing yeast; that is why bread rises. It is also why shortening is called that. Shortening shortens the gluten fibers. Bread recipes are all low fat, because too much fat would prevent rising. You can buy gluten in health food stores and add it to your flour, if you like, but that is a step better left to those of you with a great deal of experience.

A few words for those of you who like crusty bread, there is a process to be followed. Do not bake the bread in a loaf pan; shape the loaf on a cookie sheet. Place a large shallow pan on the floor of the oven, and just before baking, pour boiling water into it. Do NOT fill the pan and then put it in the oven, or you will burn yourself. The steam from the water will give you the texture you seek. Steam ovens are used in commercial bakeries, and this is the home cook's substitute for them.

For each loaf you wish to bake, mix 1 cup of lukewarm liquid (water, milk, or fruit juice), 1 tablespoon sweetener (sugar, honey, brown sugar), 1/4 cup flour, and one packet or cube of yeast. Allow this mixture to sit for about 20 minutes, or until bubbles form and it is starting to grow. Add 1 tablespoon of shortening (butter, margarine, or vegetable oil.) If you want to use an egg, this is the point at which to add it to the wet ingredients. Mix 3 cups of flour with 1 teaspoon of salt (Do NOT try to bake bread without salt; it is necessary to control the growth of the yeast), and any spices you might want such as saffron for challah. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, and mix thoroughly. the dough should be SLIGHTLY sticky and elastic. You may need to add a small amount of flour in order to achieve the right texture, but do not over knead or you will damage the gluten. Place Saran Wrap or waxed paper (not plastic wrap) over the bowl. Don't use a towel; it doesn't protect as well, and is hard to clean. Place the dough in a warm spot to rise. About 80 degrees is best, and you will find that the top of the refrigerator (outside it, of course) is just about the right temperature. Let the dough sit for around an hour, or until it is doubled in bulk.

"Punch Down" the dough with your hands. This is the point at which you add raisins, or anything else to it. Shape (such as braiding for challah) and place it in either an oiled pan, or on an oiled baking sheet, cover with saran or waxed paper, and set aside to rise a second time until doubled in bulk again. Bake at 375 degrees for between 45 minutes and an hour. Bread is done when it starts to pull away from the side of the pan, and a thump on top of the loaf produces a slightly hollow sound. No matter how you are tempted, please do not try to cut it when it first comes out of the oven. Allow at least 30 minutes of cooling time. The fibers are very fragile when first baked, and you will have a doughy mass, if you don't allow a bit of time for them to firm. You may multiply this recipe as you like to make more loaves at once.

More Things to do with Bread Dough

Now that you know how to make a basic loaf of bread, it is time to play with it. The formula for yeast dough can be varied to produce all sorts of things. There are only a few hard and fast rules about dealing with it. First, ALWAYS proof the yeast to make sure it is alive. Second, do not try to make it without salt, which balances its growth. Third, for the same reason, do not use too much sugar, as it is also a growth factor. Fourth, be sure to use at least half and preferably 2/3 bread flour with a high gluten content. Fifth, do not incorporate too much shortening in the basic dough, or the gluten fibers will be too short to support the rise. Sixth, knead the dough, but do it gently. Too much kneading will break the gluten. When you punch down the dough, do not knead it a second time. With those rules in mind, here are some variations on the theme.

For a loaf with a "wholegrain" texture- Use 2 cups of cooked cereal in place of the liquid. For example, Wheat or Oatmeal. For Potato bread, use the same quantity of mashed potatoes.

For a darker colored loaf- Use Molasses as the sweetener. The combination of Wheat and Molasses will yield a brown wholegrain textured loaf.

For heightening the fiber content- Do so by adding bran which has been soaked in liquid for a while. If you want to use wheat germ, omit the shortening in the recipe, because it has enough oil in it.

For a richer dough- You may use up to 4 egg yolks in a loaf, but omit the whites and the shortening. This dough may be used to make brioche, if you mix in 1/4 to 1/2 cup of butter after the first rise.

For a sweet dough- use up to, but no more than 1/3 cup of sugar per loaf.

For a cake texture- Allow the dough to rise 3 times instead of twice.
For a yeast pastry- Make the dough without shortening. After the first rise, roll it into a flat rectangle. Scatter small pieces of cold butter or margarine over half the dough. Fold, roll, and repeat the above process 3 or 4 more times. Then shape and allow it to rise before baking. The aforementioned method will allow you to make Croissants and Danish rolls.
For a Coffee Cake, Babka, or Spiral Rolls- Make a dough using 2 egg yolks. After the first rise, roll to a rectangle. Spread lightly with butter or margarine to within an inch of the edges. Sprinkle with sugar (brown or white). At this point, the possibilities are infinite. You can scatter nuts, rehydrated dried fruit, or small spoonfuls any flavor of tinned pastry filling. (Solo makes pareve fillings in many varieties) From the long side of the dough, roll into a spiral. For rolls, slice with a sharp knife. Place the slices on their sides in a greased pan for the second rise, then bake. For a Coffee Cake, place the roll on a greased cookie sheet and form into a circle. A pretty touch is to make vertical cuts through the top half about an inch apart all the way around. allow it to rise, then bake. For a Babka, place the roll in a tube pan for the second rise, then bake.

For rolls-After the first rise, shape the dough in any small form you like. Place it in muffin tins or sides touching in a baking pan for the second rise before baking. A simple but nice thing to do is to form the dough into balls, dip the balls in melted butter or margarine, and place them sides touching in a baking pan for the second rise before baking.

For doughnuts- After the first rise, roll the dough flat and cut it to shape. Allow to rise the second time, then deep fry at 375 degrees, turning halfway through. Doughnuts are not made from sweet dough. They are glazed or sugared after frying. To do that, just shake in a paper bag filled with sugar, powdered, brown, white, or cinnamon.

Copyright 2002 Eddy Robey
Excerpts from It's Not Just Chicken Soup.
hosted by the Gantseh Megillah

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