Thursday, January 26, 2012

Baking Bread from Scratch

Some daughters bond with their dads through soccer, football or any number of other sports. Cheering for our teams during the NFL playoffs with my dad certainly brought us closer, but it's the activity that we did while watching these games that is one of my fondest childhood memories.

In addition to making the usual hot dogs and hamburgers for these events, my dad, sister, and I would bake homemade bread while watching the games. For us, the smell of freshly baked bread sprinkled with salt, the taste of the deliciously crunchy crust, and the feel of the soft interior was a perfect accompaniment to our football parties. Happily, my dad didn't limit his bread to Superbowl Sundays and we were treated to it year-round.

Here is a simple bread recipe from Carla Emery to inspire you to try it on your own. I especially enjoy her suggestion to add extra ingredients like onion or cheese to this versatile recipe.

Virginia's White Bread Mix 21⁄2 c. liquid, 3 T. sugar, 1 T. salt, and 2 T. shortening. Dissolve 2 envelopes (or 2 T.) yeast in 1⁄4 c. lukewarm water and add to other ingredients. Mix in with spoon, then by hand, 7 to 71⁄4 c. flour. Turn dough out on floured board and let rest about 10 minutes. Knead until smooth and elastic (8 to 10 minutes). Grease bread dough and put in a large bowl or pan. Cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place out of drafts until doubled in bulk.

You can test this by jabbing 2 fingers into the dough. If this causes the dough to slowly collapse, it is ready to punch down. Punch and fold it into a firm ball and let rise again until almost doubled in bulk. Divide into 2 pieces. Let dough rest on floured table 10 minutes. Shape into loaves. Put in pans. Grease. Let rise to just above top of loaf pans. Bake at 425˚F for 25 to 30 minutes. Turn out on racks to cool. This dough may be used for sweet rolls, buns, cinnamon loaves, and cheese or onion loaves by adding the appropriate extra ingredients when shaping the bread.

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