My Journey Making Bread

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I love homemade bread. I even plan on making some today, as it’s been a while. I remember as our children were growing up we had two bread machines going every Sunday to prepare for sandwiches and toast during the week for work and school. Now that we are empty-nesters I don’t nearly bake as often as I use to. I love to make bread and rolls to have for a family dinner.

Over the years I have managed to find recipes I liked and I am comfortable making and feel turn out well.  There have sometimes been “failures” but it has been a journey of learning and in this great technical age, the amount of information on social media and videos available out there is wonderful. There is always someone who is willing to share their “secret” to bread baking. So I’ve gone from not only from baking bread in my bread machine but to making No-Knead Artisan bread. I love using my mixer to make dough for bread, rolls and more recently to making bagels for the first time several weeks back.

There are bread snobs who think if you haven’t baked  “real” bread from scratch, by hand and use a bread machine or a dough mixer that it isn’t bread baking. I don’t believe that at all. I have made bread in several different ways and the joy I get from a freshly baked loaf is the same no matter how prepared.

So give bread baking a try. Bread machines can now be purchased at a fraction of the cost from when they first came out or there are many that can be found in really good condition at local thrift shops for great prices. So while you are thinking it over if a bread machine should be something you would want to think about, how about trying to make a loaf fo No-Knead Artisan bread. They are simple, you can prepare a loaf in the evening and then bake it the next day.

A great place to start is   Crusty Bread the Movie

Then you can move onto to these delicious loaves of bread.

cranberry walnut bread no knead

No-Knead Cranberry Walnut Bread
Recipe adapted from My Bread by Jim Lahey

Equipment: a 4 1/2 to 5 1/2 quart enameled cast-iron pot with a tight-fitting lid (I use a Le Creuset Dutch Oven)

Ingredients:
3 Cups (400 grams) Bread Flour
1/2 tsp instant or other active dry yeast
1 1/4 tsp (8 grams) salt
½ cup (85 grams) dried cranberries
½ cup (50 grams) chopped walnuts
1 1/3 cup (350 grams) cool water
extra flour for dusting

In a large bowl, stir together the flour, yeast, salt, cranberries, and walnuts. Add the water and using a rubber spatula mix until a shaggy ball forms. If the dough does not feel sticky to the touch, add in a bit more water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it sit at room temperature for about 12 – 18 hours, until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough has more than doubled in size.

When the slow rise is complete, Lay a 12 x 18-inch sheet of parchment paper inside a 10-inch skillet and spray it with nonstick cooking spray. Generously dust your counter, a large cutting board, or a silicone mat with flour. Use a rubber spatula to scrape the dough out in one piece. Using lightly floured hands, lift the edges of the dough and fold them in toward the center. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round. Transfer the dough, seam-side down, to the parchment-lined skillet. A bench scraper is helpful for doing this. Spray a piece of plastic wrap with nonstick cooking spray and cover the dough loosely with the wrap. Place the dough in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost doubled, and if it holds an indentation when gently poked with your finger.

Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F, with a rack in the lower third position, and place a covered pot in the center of the rack. Take the pre-heated pot out of the oven, and carefully transfer the dough into the pot by lifting the parchment paper and lowering it into the pot. Quickly cover the pot and put it in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking until the bread is a deep chestnut color, 10 – 20 mins more. Make sure to check the bread so it doesn’t burn, because every oven is different. An instant-read thermometer will register 210 degrees, or you can tap the bottom and listen for a hollow sound. Carefully remove the bread from the pot and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

no knead olive bread

No-Knead Mediterranean Olive Bread

Ingredients:

3 cups bread flour. (I use King Arthur bread flour)
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. instant yeast
1 tsp. Thyme
Zest of 1 Lemon
3 oz of sliced black olives
3.5 oz of stuffed green olives (sliced)
4 oz of Kalamata olives (sliced)
1 tbsp. Olive oil
12 oz. cool tap water

Directions:

Mix up the dry ingredients and slice up the olives. Add the zest of one lemon and the sliced olives and mix. Now add the olive oil and the water and mix until you have a uniform consistency. Now cover with plastic wrap and let it proof for 12 to 24 hours somewhere on the counter. After the initial proofing scooped it out onto a well-floured poly board. Fold it back onto itself and from this into a ball. Cut the ball in half and form each half into a loaf shape and let this proof again from another 1.5 to 2 hours. Pre-heat your oven baking vessel to 450.  After the second proofing, place the loaf into the preheated baking vessel and bake for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes. (adjust this time as necessary)

 

Everything Bread mixed in my Bosch mixer20160228_201417

 

Challah Bread mixed in the Bosch mixer20160131_144852

 

Kaiser Rolls, dough mixed in the Bosch mixer and I used a Kaiser roll stamp to make the design.

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Holiday Fruit Cake or Fruit Bread

Fruitcake (or fruit cake or fruit bread) is a cake made with candied or dried fruit, nuts, and spices, and optionally soaked in brandy or rum. In the United Kingdom, certain rich versions may be iced and decorated. Fruitcakes are typically served in celebration of weddings and Christmas. Given their rich nature, fruitcakes are most often consumed on their own,  or sometimes served with butter or cream.

festive fruit cake

We enjoy simple fruit cake at our house. Some fruit cakes are loaded with so much fruit and nuts there is very little cake. Years ago I came across a super simple fruit cake on the back of a cake box that I have tweaked a bit and I have been making it every since. It is just the way we enjoy fruit cake. You may want to give it a try.

Easy Fruit Cake

Ingredients:

2 cups water

1/4 cup oil

2 eggs

2 (16.6-oz.) pkgs. of a Date Nut Quick Bread & Muffin Mix

2 cups Pecans, chopped for the cake but save a few whole one for decorating the cake top

2 cups Raisins

2 cups Candied mixed fruit

1/2 cup Candied Cherries, halved

1/2 cup Candied pineapple, cut-up

Corn syrup, if desired

Preparation Directions:
1. Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour bottom and sides of 12-cup Bundt® pan or 10-inch tube pan. In large bowl, combine water, oil and eggs; beat well. Add all remaining ingredients except corn syrup; stir with spoon until combined. Pour into greased and floured pan. You way wish set aside some candied cherry halves and Pecans to decorate the top of the cake before baking.

2. Bake at 350°F. for 1 hour 25 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes or until golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 30 minutes. Remove from pan. Cool 1 hour or until completely cooled.

3. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or foil. Refrigerate at least 8 hours. Store in refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in freezer for up to 3 months.

4. Just before serving, heat corn syrup until warm. Brush over fruitcake. If desired, decorate with additional candied fruits and nuts or as desired.

pannettone sliced 2017pannettone 2017

Another version of fruit cake we enjoy would be what sometimes is referred to as Fruit Bread but I call it Panettone. I make a very easy version in my bread machine. We enjoy it sliced; spread with some butter and a hot cup of tea.

Bread Machine Panettone

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup warm water
  • 6 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp. sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 package Instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon Vital Wheat Gluten (optional – I find it helps bread machine breads rise beautifully. You can find it at King Arthur Flour website, store in a glass jar in your freezer it keeps much longer)
  • 1/2 cup candied fruit
  • 1/3 cup chopped almonds (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract

 Directions

Add all ingredients in bread machine pan including the yeast.  Select white bread or sweet bread setting.

(I have use the Raisin Bake bread setting for 4 hours in my Panasonic SD-YD250, light crust, large loaf).

Dough will look wet but that is normal for this bread, don’t be tempted to add more flour.

Hit start and let it go!