What is there to say? I'm not very interesting. I'm not a good writer. I don't even dress well. If you insist on knowing something about me just wander through the archives. It's all there.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

On baking bread

Bananas, yogurt, and white bread were the only things that my four-year-old son would eat. This is the literal truth. We could not have forced a candy bar or a carrot down his throat. We had to buy him a Happy Meal at McDonalds to get the toy. The food he would actually eat there we had to sneak in under our coats. After this phase had gone on for several months, we starting to get worried and mentioned it to his pediatrician. She told us that since he was healthy, growing, and obnoxiously happy on these limited food choices; we should not worry about it. After all, he could have fixated on a lot worse diet.

Still, it bothered me. It’s hard to improve on the nutritional qualities of bananas or yogurt, but the ingredient label on the loaf of white bread seemed eerily reminiscent of the ingredient label on my shampoo bottle. It seemed possible to add a few cups of bleached, bromated and processed white flour to my shampoo, bake the combination at 375 degrees and call it “wholesome goodness”

I had actually learned how to make bread when I about fifteen. I spent a summer working at a camp as a “cook’s assistant”. As the junior member of the kitchen staff, I usually just spent my working hours hauling boxes around and opening large tin cans. But we all spent every Saturday making and kneading what seemed like hundreds of pounds of bread dough from scratch. It was formed into cinnamon rolls and dinner rolls for Sunday meals.

So, I embarked on a mission to improve on one of my son’s three food groups.

Since the only bread recipe that I knew involved using fifty-pound bags of flour, I decided to start small. I went out and bought a bread maker. I tried and tried to get it to bake a loaf of bread that didn’t have the consistency of cardboard and the taste to match. I returned several brands to the store that burned the outer part of the loaves into a black inedible shell and left the center gooey. Then I caught on to the secret. Bread makers bake lousy bread loaves, but they are great for making bread dough. Once I had made that breakthrough, I started to experiment. Eventually, I came up with a bread recipe that my son and half the children in the neighborhood would line up for on baking day. Rather than making loaves, I formed the dough into baseball-sized rolls that made softball-sized bread that could be easy carried around and munched on during playtime. If the recipe doesn’t work out for you, then you're doing something wrong. Do what I did and figure it out.

Combine in mixer bowl or bread maker (set to dough cycle):
1 2/3 cups skim milk (warm)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons of sea salt
2 heaping tablespoons of dark brown sugar
2 heaping tablespoons of non-fat powdered milk
1 heaping tablespoon of wheat germ
(if using a mixer, mix at this point)

Then add
4 1/3 cups of unbleached, non-bromated white bread flour
(I prefer some of the brands put out by the smaller manufacturers)
2 level teaspoons of dry yeast
(I usually just add it dry, but you can activate it first, if you want, with a little warm water and a touch of sugar.)

(If using a mixer, mix with bread hook, then manually go through 2 knead/rise cycles. This is point where the bread maker dough setting is worth the money. It does the knead/rise cycles for you.)

Turn out the dough onto a floured surface.
Divide and hand form the dough into baseball-sized rolls and place them on a greased (I like using a vegetable oil spray) cookie sheet or large pizza pan. It will make about 12 to 18 rolls.
Cover with a cloth and let the rolls rise until they double in size.

Preheat oven and bake (remove the cloth, of course) at 350 degrees for between 17 and 22 minutes depending on your oven.


Blogger Glory said...

Your recent toolish pedantics brought me back to your site, which (sorry to say) I had lost track of. I've been catching up; you're very, very funny. May I post a link to you?

26/5/05 10:33 PM  
Blogger HCaldwell said...

Go right ahead. I'll drop you an email. Thanks.

27/5/05 9:00 AM  

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