Merlot Mudpies

Can a blog be about gardening, cancer, family, food and life all at the same time? Oh good.

3 Easy Breads June 28, 2009


So, my sis-in-law, Michele, made a great New Year’s resolution a few years back: She decided she was going to learn to make bread.  And that girl didn’t just learn to make a loaf of white bread and call it quits.  She learned to make some fantastic artisan breads.  My appetite wasn’t so great for a few months during my mom’s illness and following her death.  But I remember Michele made a loaf of sesame challah that she brought over to my dad’s house on afternoon before Easter and Crista toasted it up for us with butter and jam.  Honestly, it was like mana.  I couldn’t eat enough.  It was so good and I decided then and there that I’d learn to bake bread, too.

The three breads I’m sharing here are some of our favorie staples at home now.  One doesn’t require any kneading at all.  One requires kneading in a food processor or a mixer with a dough hook.  One allows for kneading by hand or with a hook.  All of them are easy, inexpensive and, best of all, delicious!

Tip:  I highly recommend pricing out flour and most especially yeast at a big buy store near you.  One of the no-fee stores near me, for instance, carries 2 pounds of yeast (no joke, 2 pounds!) for less than what I pay for a jar of yeast and about the same price as a set of three packets in the grocery store.  I bought mine a year ago, store it sealed in the fridge, and my little yeasties are still going strong in any dough I make.

No-Knead “Sour” Dough What you need to know about this bread is that you have to plan ahead.  If you want to eat it, start making it the day before because time replaces work here.  It is excellent sliced with butter, dipped in hummus, as a crouton for bruschetta, or dipped in oil and vinegar.  There are lots of variations of this recipe online.  Look around and get some creative ideas!  Mary at Owlhaven.net uses a different variation from the one I use.

Amazing White Bread (or wheat, if you want!) Trent, over at The Simple Dollar offers a step-by-step-with-pictures lesson on making white bread yourself at home.  You can modify this recipe to include whole wheat flour for something healthier.  I’ve also done this and then added flax meal for additional nutrition and to moisted the bread which can get a little dry with the WW flour.  Let me tell you, there are few things that make my toes curl the way a slice of this bread toasted and then buttered and drizzled with honey can.  Goodness gracious.

One note: if you’re using a stand mixer to knead this dough:  Just knead the dough with the hook for about 4 minutes on setting 2 or 4.  Much more than this can over-knead your dough and keep it from rising.  I had never used my mixer for bread before and found this advice on the Kitchen Aid site itself.  Very helpful!

Home-Made Pita Bread This recipe is the most labor intensive simply because you have to roll out your dough.  But it’s tasty and well worth the effort.  Because there is lots of standing time for the dough, I find that I can have my dishes done and the kitchen cleaned up before the last batch comes out of the oven.  This means I often get to stand at the counter and eat some warm with homemade hummus before I put the rest away as a reward for my efforts.

1/4 oz dry yeast (1 pkg or 2 1/4 tsp loose)
1/2 cup warm water
1 additional cup warm water
1 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. additional sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil
3 1/2 cups white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
(you can use all white if needed)

Mix up yeast, 1/2 C warm water and 1 tsp of sugar and let proof for ten minutes.  It will get bubbly.

In bowl of mixer combine flour, salt, 2. tsp sugar and mix on very lowest setting.  Add yeast mixture, oil and water and mix until combined.  Remove mixing paddle and replace with dough hook.  Knead on low setting for ten minutes.  Remove, fold over on itself several times with floured hands and then form into a ball.  Place in a lightly oiled bowl (glass or porcelain is best) and turn over a few times to evenly coat with oil.  Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise until it doubles.  (Anywhere between 1 and two hours depending on the temp in your kitchen! Tonight it took barely an hour.)

Position rack in lower 1/3 of oven and preheat oven to 500.  Punch dough down and let rest 5 minutes.  Divide dough into 8 equal portions.  The best explanation I’ve found for what to do next with the dough is out of an Armenian cookbook my friend Ani gave me:  “Taking one piece at a time, flatten and fold sides over toward the center like wrapping a package.  Seal together on all sides.  Turn sealed side down.”

Let dough rest an additional 10 minutes, covered with a towel or plastic wrap on a lightly floured surface.  Next, roll each piece of dough out into a circle and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake approximately 7 minutes or until slightly golden and puffy.  Cool slightly on racks and then place in a plastic bag for storage while still warm so that bread remains moist.

A REALLY good way to eat this (though I’m not sure how healthy it is!) is to cut pita bread into triangles (like a mini pizza) and lightly fry them up in olive oil or vegetable oil.  Lightly sprinkle with salt and then dip in hummus.  The soft bread takes on the consistency of a savory doughnut.  Delicious!

So there you are.  3 easy breads. Enjoy!

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