Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful Bread Baking!

I am not really a baker.  Baking takes science and attention to detail, neither of which I am any good at.  But baking yeast bread I have finally figured out.  I find that working with my hands, really feeling the dough as it's working, helps me to get it right. It has become more instinctive for me than scientific.

There is also no need to fear working with yeast.  I buy a jar of yeast so that if at first you don't succeed in proofing it, try try again.  Just make sure your water is warm, not hot, and I like to add some sugar.  Maple syrup is my preference, but maybe honey or agave nectar is yours.

If you have a stand mixer or a bread machine, by all means use it.  But first work the dough out with your hands, get a feel for it.  From then on you'll know what to look for as you use your machines.

Here is a simple recipe, adapted from The Fanny Farmer Cookbook.  I used it today and added 1 1/4 cup of pecans and 1 1/4 cup of cranberries to it to make bread for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow.
I also, since the oven was going, made some vegan whole wheat cranberry orange muffins...just cause...

Whole Wheat Yeast Bread
Makes 1 loaf

1 cup     Warm Water
1/4 cup  Maple Syrup
2 1/4 tsp Dry Active Yeast
2 2/3 cup Whole Wheat Flour
2 cups     All Purpose Flour
1 tsp      Salt
1 cup     Warm Water

Preheat the oven to 400°.
Mix the warm water and the maple syrup together.  Add the yeast and stir to combine.  Let sit until it starts to foam and bubble, 5-10 minutes.
Mix the flours and salt together. Add any mix ins, cranberries, nuts, etc. at this time.
Pour the maple yeast mixture into the flour.  Add the rest of the water.  Stir to combine and then start to work the dough with your hands. 

Pour the dough onto a clean hard surface and knead until smooth, 5 or so minutes.  Place back into an oiled bowl and allow to rise, covered with a towel, until double in size.  Altitude is a factor here, where I live it only take 35-40 minutes, may take longer at lower elevations.
Punch the dough down and then place into a greased 9 inch loaf pan. 
Bake for 30 minutes then check on the loaf.  Turn the pan if your loaf is browner on one side than another.  Bake for 10 more minutes.
Remove from the oven and use a knife to loosen the sides of the loaf.  Take the bread from the pan and allow to cool on a cooling rack.  If you would like a warm slice of bread, wait about 5 minutes after the loaf is out of the oven before slicing it.  This allows any steam that has accumulated in the loaf to dissipate and keeps your slices from getting soggy.

When I made the muffins I took some of the batter and put it into a soup crock to make a mini loaf for some friends.  I'm crafty like that.