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Friday, May 1, 2015

Hearth Bread - A Simple Daily Bread

This recipe makes a nicely textured loaf.*

One day I was looking for a bread recipe without any egg in it because I had flour that day but no eggs. It being a 3 mile walk to the nearest place that sells eggs, I went looking for an egg-free bread recipe. I found this bread machine recipe in a book my daughter gave me.  I fiddled with the recipe a bit over the next few times I made bread and finally got it to come out just like I want. This is my favorite bread recipe now. The original had no whole wheat, so I added some to good effect and it was even better.

I'm not sure why it's called "hearth" bread. I suppose it's supposed to be the sort of bread pioneers made on their hearths or something. Either that or it's something tasty to eat around your fireplace, which fact, I can attest to. 

First allow me to repeat my grandmother's bread-making secrets:
  1. Dissolve the yeast first in warm (not hot) water - till it bubbles a little
  2. Knead the dough adding flour or water till it feels like a baby's bottom when you spank the dough.
  3. Be patient - give the dough plenty of time to rise.
  4. Let the dough rise twice - the second time in the bread pan.
  5. Wheat germ or something crunchy like flax seed, chia seeds or some such. You can even add a little oatmeal to beef it up some. .  I run flax seed through a blender till it's about like pecan meal. You can also use pecan meal to give it a crunchy texture and some extra protein.
Tools:
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Bread pan or roll pan (if you're making rolls)
  • Kitchen-Aid Mixer (Every manly man who cooks needs one of these in his kitchen)
The ingredients are pretty basic.

Ingredients
  • ¾ cup very warm water
  • 1/3 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon butter, margarine or olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons honey, light molasses or a handful of brown sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose white flour
  • ½ cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 package active dry yeast 
  • 1 tablespoon wheat germ if you've got it. I also grind up flax seed in the blender to use when I don't have wheat germ. Make it about the texture of pecan meal. Pecan meal also works for bread too. Flax seed has got lots of Omega 3's in it and gives the bread a slightly crunchy texture as do various nut meals.  You can also add a handful of oatmeal which gives the dough a nice oatey flavor too.  Here's a post I did about making nut meal and flour with a blender.
Directions:
Letting the dough hook do the work!
  1. Add the yeast to the warm water and stir vigorously with a whisk to dissolve it into the water. Let the yeast sit till it bubbles a little on top.
  2. Place all the sugars, fats, and fluids together in the mixing bowl and whisk or beat with a wire beater.
  3. Start the dough hook turning slowly on your stand mixer and add flour and dry ingredients to the liquid stuff (oil, yeast and sugar mixture). You can also knead it by hand, but who wants to do that? You will need a very large bowl for hand kneading to avoid coating the kitchen in a fine layer of flour.
  4. Add flour or water as needed to make the dough the texture of a baby's behind when you pat it. It should be not quite sticky to the touch. Run the dough hook or knead for a good ten minutes to achieve the proper texture for the finished bread.
  5. Cover the mixing bowl and set it in a warm place. Cover with a cup towel and allow the bread to rise to double it's original size.
  6. Return the bowl to the mixer and run the dough hook for another ten minutes. Don't add water or flour unless you absolutely have to to maintain the correct consistency.
  7. Lightly oil the the inside of a bread pan.  Cooking oil spray is perfect for this. 
  8. Form the kneaded dough into a loaf shape.
  9. Place the kneaded dough into the pan. Put the bread pan somewhere warm with a towel over it and allow the loaf to fully rise. It should rise well above the top of the bread pan.
  10. Dough ball before rising
  11. When the dough is fully risen, place the bread into a preheated 350° oven. Bake until brown on top.  You can enhance the color of the top of the bread by pulling it out before it darkens good and brush the top with butter or margarine, the put it back in the over to bake that nice golden brown color.


Final Notes:  This recipe makes a 1½ to 2 pound loaf. It makes great sandwiches and toast. As a sandwich, the bread adds a whole other dimension to the taste of a sandwich. You can also form the dough into rolls or hamburger or hot dog buns with a little practice. You'll learn to go a little spare when you make buns. They rise a lot during the second rising and then again in the oven. In my early experiments I had a couple of vegeburger that could have handled a 2 pound patty, a small head of lettuce and a dozen tomatoes.  They were wonderful. I wanted seconds, but I couldn't get up from my chair to make another one.  A vegeburger on whole wheat homemade buns is a treat not to miss!

*
This looks like white bread, but it's actually wheat bread. I used some oat flour in this one which lightened the color.  You can substitute oat flour for some of the other flour in the recipe. Just dump some oatmeal into a blender and whiz it up. Makes a nice flour for giving bread a kind of oatey flavor.

© 2015 by Tom King

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