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Monday, July 16, 2012

By Bread Alone . . .

I love fresh bread.  Who doesn't?  When I was younger my mom used to buy frozen bread dough.  All you had to do was let it thaw, rise and bake it in the oven and you had a delicious loaf of hot, fresh bread.  A little butter (margarine in those days) and heaven was imminent.

My mom had a set of those Pyrex mixing bowls.  Hers were in shades of yellow and brown and had a design of onions and garlic, as I recall.  Those bowls could be baked in, like a casserole, mixed in and served in.  She used the biggest bowl for virtually everything - spaghetti, salads, you name it.  With six kids in the family a giant bowl of spaghetti was a necessity.

One of my favorite uses for the bowl was her famous double loaf of bread.  She would take a loaf of white bread and a loaf of dark rye, let them thaw in the bowl, sprinkle the top with sesame or poppy seeds and bake them together.  The result was a huge round loaf of two-toned bread.  Break them apart and slice your favorite for bread and butter or for sandwiches.

Once we had a choir bake sale.  Mom had bread dough in the freezer and allowed me to take two loaves.  When I arrived at the sale the loaves were purchased immediately - by one of the choir members, who treated everybody to hot bread for breakfast.

My niece recently made a facebook post asking if anyone had a bread machine.  I guess she was just soliciting feedback on how they worked and whether owners actually used them.  I took it to mean she was in the market and set about finding one for her.  I invited her over to try out the machine and to take it home, should she want to.

Turns out she just wanted the info.  Now I am the proud owner of a bread machine.  Not a problem.  It also turns out the machine seems to work better than the one I had 20 years ago.  One exception, the little beater/paddle sticks fast in the baked loaf which did not happen on my old machine - but the old machine did not bake two great loaves the first time out so . . . . .

I decided I better make a couple loaves before the niece came over just to be sure all was in working order.  The two loaves I tried were both successful with a lovely interior and nice crust.  I used one of the recipes in the guide book, with some necessary modifications, and here is my recipe for a tasty loaf.  You will need a package of 7 or 9 grain hot cereal.  It's like oatmeal but also contains wheat, rye, barley and other grains.  This is not instant or quick-cook.  Look for a cereal that calls for about 2 - 4 times as much water as cereal and about 30 minutes cooking time.  Or just use rolled oats.

You may also want oat bran, wheat germ, ground flax seed or chia seeds (I used both).

Following your bread machine's instructions for the proper order, add the following:

6 - 8 oz water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons honey or molasses
1 1/2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened (or use oil)
1/2 cup multi grain hot cereal (not cooked)
2 1/2 cups bread flour (all purpose flour can also be used) * see note
1 1/2 tablespoons oat bran, ground flax seed, wheat germ or chia seed
1 1/2 tablespoons dry milk powder * see note
1 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

* you can add about 1/2 - 1 cup whole wheat or whole grain flour in place of some of the bread flour; you can also add a little milk in place of some of the water instead of the milk powder.  Save any extra water to add, if necessary, as the bread mixes.

Select the regular bread cycle and the medium crust (if available) and turn on the  machine.  After five minutes peek inside and if the dough has not formed a ball and appears dry add a little water, no more than a tablespoon at a time.  If it appears wet add a little flour, no more than a tablespoon at a time.  Check again in five minutes to ensure the dough has formed a nice ball.

Remove when cool and remove the mixing paddle, if necessary.  Allow to cool.

Now everybody knows that bread is best fresh out of the oven so wait about 20 minutes or so and then slice off one side of the loaf.  This will remove the crust end and make for nicer sandwich slices later AND you get a bonus - a hot slice of fresh bread.  Spread with sweet butter and enjoy!

Alas, neither of the machines I own are manufactured any more but it seems you can still buy bread machines in a wide range of prices and functionality.  I suggest you do your research and find a machine that will meet your needs.  Better yet, find someone who has grown tired of their machine and take it off their hands!

Quotable quotes; in the category I Bet I'd Like It Even Better With Butter!

"I like reality.  It tastes like bread."  Jean Anouilh, French dramatist

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