Saturday, August 22, 2009

Customizable Bread

Realistically, I don't look up a recipe, I (or the kids) just do this:

4 c warm water
3 t salt
1 T oil or butter
1T yeast
7-9 c flour

You can add sugar, ground flax seed, soy flour, wheat germ, oats, potato flakes, honey, eggs, seeds, other flours, or anything else you can think of to this recipe in place of some of the flour.

Mix it all together, knead it 10 minutes, oil it and let it rise.
Shape it into a loaf, let it rise 30 minutes, then bake it 30-40 minutes at 350 degrees.

Things I've learned:

Skipping the oil will give you a lovely crackly crust, but it will stale quickly.

Adding some milk instead of water will give you a more tender, denser "crumb."

If you add a lot of stuff you need to use bread flour, or add gluten.

You can use left over breakfast oatmeal to make oat bread, and leftover mashed potatoes to make potato bread.

A wetter, "slack" dough will give you big holes inside - lovely when toasted, or for "artisan" bread.

You can bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, as long as you don't have much sugar in the dough.

Dough is fully kneaded when it passes the "windowpane" test. Stretch a small amount of dough to form a flat "window." If you can see light through it, you pass, if it tears and looks ragged, you need to knead...

If you can't manage to knead it enough to make it really smooth and elastic, let it rise twice and the yeast will do it for you.

If you're pressed for time, you can put a loaf that has mostly risen (20 minutes) into a cold oven and it will finish rising as the oven heats up.

If you have time, the slower the rise, the more flavor. An overnight rise in the fridge (just slip it in a gallon ziplock bag) will give you fantastic bread - try baking it at 400 degrees and you'll get the best crust ever!

Spraying the crust with water right before you bake will give you a crisp crust with the best rise.

Buttering the crust when it comes out gives you a soft crust that kids love! (This tip courtesy of Klenda!)

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