Sunday, March 18, 2012

Homemade Bread--As You Like It!

This week, one of my sons put together my new Country Living grain mill. It's a manual grinder...not a bit of electricity is used to get the nicest flour anyone could possibly want. I've used an electric grinder for years, but always wanted to get away from "machinery" and just use good old-fashioned arm power instead. The Country Living grain mill with the power bar attachment makes grinding grain really quite easy.

I also purchased the corn and bean auger because I love fresh ground cornmeal, and can't wait to use that next. And if you've read my previous posts (see "A Handy Woman -- Sort Of" on 2/12/12) you know I'm not mechanical. So, if I can use this mill--and change out the augers--I figure anyone can. It's that easy!

Okay, so here are some picture of my new mill:

A Close-up view

Shown bolted onto a butcher block cabinet

Of course, I immediately set about grinding grain. I made some cracked wheat for hot cereal, and then set it to fine and ground flour for bread. The flour was beautiful stuff--perfect bread flour.

I want to share with you my go-to recipe for a plain load of bread (although you can add anything you want to it. Or do like I do and make several loaves at a time and turn one of them into cinnamon sugar bread. Yum!). The recipe comes from an Amish cookbook published in 1980 and "Compiled by a Committee of Amish Women."

What I love about this recipe is that it's easy and you make as many or as few loaves as you want. Here are some pictures of today's whole wheat bread:

Loaf At a Time Basic Bread Recipe

For each loaf use:

1 cup very warm water
1 teaspoon melted lard or butter, or cooking oil
1 scant teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon yeast (if you make 8 loaves, just use 2 rounded tablespoons yeast)
3 cups flour

Combine everything but the flour in the order given in a large bowl. Let the mixture stand until the yeast dissolves and gets bubbly. Stir in about half of the flour and beat it until smooth. (You can use an electric hand mixer, but I just use a wooden spoon or a whisk and go to it.) Then add the remaining flour. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 8 - 10 minutes. Shape into a ball.

Place the dough into a clean bowl that has been greased (Crisco or butter). Turn the ball of dough all around so the entire surface gets greased. Then, put a clean towel on top of the bowl and set it in a draft-free, warmish place (I just set mine on the counter) and let it rise until double.

Punch down and knead it a bit. Then shape it into a ball again and place it back in the bowl, making sure to grease the entire surface again. Cover with the towel and let rise to double again. Do this punching down/rising step one more time and then:

Shape into a loaf or loaves, depending on how many you're making, and place the loaves in greased bread pans. Cover with the towel and let rise again until nearly doubled. (The bread will continue to rise a bit when it's first placed in the oven.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. When you place the bread into the oven, turn the temperature down to 350 degrees and bake for 30-35 minutes.

When you remove the finished bread from the oven, you can lightly grease or butter the top crust. This helps the crust to remain soft...but I hardly ever do this and I don't have a problem with hard crust. After about 5 minutes, turn the finished loaves out of the loaf pans and set the bread on racks to cool.

It's really hard to let the bread rest for a bit before you dig in...but resist the urge to cut into it until the bread has had a chance to cool slightly. You'll be happy you waited because the bread will cut better and hold it's shape.

Also, you can skip the last rising before you loaf it up if you feel pressed for time. However, the bread will have a better texture and will be softer and lighter if you do all the risings because the air bubbles that get trapped are smaller; therefore, the bread is finer textured.

That's it! It's really quite easy. This bread makes great toast and works super well for sandwiches.

Happy eating!


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