Monday, January 5, 2009

Multi-Purpose White Bread - More on Bread Making

Sounds dull. I know. However, this bread is anything but dull. It is in fact quite a decadent little secret. This bread is fluffy, delicate...Pouf!...and white. To up the nutritional value, toss in some whole wheat, oats, flax or other grain. Substitute molasses or brown sugar to make it at least appear healthy. Trade off some of the water for milk. The crust will be browner. Switch the oil for butter. The crumb will become more cake-like. Brush with egg, dust with flour, sprinkle with cheese for impressive finishes. Be creative. Be frugal. This recipe is where all of Decadent's left-over oatmeal porridge or Red River finds itself. EWwwww! Recycling dearie, at it's tastiest. Relax. I only recycle the stuff left in the pot.

Think of this basic recipe as a springboard for cottage rolls, dinner rolls, lunch buns, sticky buns, pork buns, cheese buns, garlic twists, savoury pizza, fruity pizza, farmhouse loaves, herbed braids, sesame braids, cheese braids, raisin loaves, oatmeal and other "brown" breads. The list is endless. Whatever you can stick into or onto bread to make it ooey-gooey, spicey, savoury; however you wish to form, twist, stretch, tie, knot, or pat it - this is a good place to start. Men will want to marry you after they taste the bread you produce from this. Women too proud to come over to the Decadent Breadmaking side will secretly hate you. I know, it has happened to me.
GG made his first ever loaf of bread starting with this recipe and because he is "inventive", he threw in a carton of cottage cheese and about 3/4's of a pound of squeezed frozen spinach and some chopped onion and garlic slightly sauteed and oh my, what a mess. Just kidding. It was delicious. Here's the basic dull sounding recipe for
Multi-Purpose White Bread
  • 2 cups of warm water
  • 1 tsp. white sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. yeast, or one packet of yeast
Mix the above together in a largish bowl and set it aside.
  • 2 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. salt
Measure this together into a glass measuring cup and pour it into the first group of ingredients in the largish bowl. Now here comes the slightly scary part. Take a 24 oz. scooper like you see here and measure about
  • 4 scoopers of all-purpose flour into the largish bowl
Each rounded up scoopful is about 3 cups. If you don't have a scooper, then scoop out about 12 rounded off cups, instead. Mix this in well. You want a nice softish dough that is holding it's shape and can be scraped out onto a slightly floured work surface, upon which you will begin to knead, the old-fashioned way. Really. It does not take all that much time to knead your own bread. You may need to add another 1/2 to 1 scooper of flour by halves. If you get enough flour into the mix while still in the bowl, you shouldn't have to spend a long time kneading in more flour when it's on the work surface. The dough when finished kneading will be smooth, elastic and satiny, feeling just like a baby's behind, or, if somehow that has passed by your life-experience, your earlobe. To see how to go through this process refer back to Sourdough Potato Bread - A Primer in Bread Making. The method is exactly the same.
A word about the weather; on a very humid or rainy day, go clean out drawers. Don't bake - at least, not bread. You will be kneading and kneading for a very long time as the extra moisture in the atmosphere will cause the dough to keep "sucking" up flour. I know, not very scientific. But believe me. It's true. However, after a while I learned how to get around rainy day bread-baking too. There comes a point when one will just know when to toss that sucker (literally) back in the bowl to let it rise even though it does not feel or look right on that rainy day one absolutely had to go and bake bread. This usually occurs after having stood there quite some time and having kneaded in quite a lot more flour than usual and it still is sticky. The bread won't appear shiny or smooth yet it still turns out, but is just a little bit more ornerier to manage, that's all. If you find yourself doing this, use some oil on your hands and a bit on the work surface when it comes time to form the dough into the shapes you want. Otherwise, it will be sticking to everything it touches like something from a very bad movie until you get it shaped and put on the pans. For starters, just choose a clear, bright sunny day and the bread will take less flour and knead up in very little time.

It would help to have a weigh scale. It does not have to be fancy. I have a beat up old thing from the '30's which I won't show you it because it is truly nasty looking, but does the job. Weighing the raw dough will help determine how much raw dough works with the pans you have and for which recipes. For example, when I make pizza, I weigh out 1 1/2 lb. balls of dough and then split those balls into halves. Each of those halves is enough for one crust on my 13 inch pizza pans. For a simple standard loaf I use anywhere from 1 3/4 to 2 lbs. of raw dough. For a dozen dinner buns, 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 lbs. will do. If you want bigger lunch buns for making sandwiches, form only 8 or 9 buns rather than the 12. Cottage Rolls, which are just 8 little buns stuffed into an 8-inch round pan and Sticky Buns use only 1 pound of raw dough.
You may find yourself with slightly different size pans. Just adjust up or down with raw dough. Experiment. Friday night after making 6 pizzas, I had 2 1/4 pounds of raw dough left over. Usually, I'll make a few pans of buns with this extra, but this time I tossed the extra into ziplocs and put it to the refrigerator. Sunday afternoon I took out the dough and made two pans of sticky buns...what you see here. I divided the extra 1/4 lb. of dough between the two rounds of sticky buns. It was just a tad more than necessary but still worked. The point is, there really are no hard and fast rules once you are past the actual mixing, and kneading of the dough. Just keep the cut edges always to the inside of your dough and all will be well.
About baking. 400 F seems to work best. Twenty minutes for loaves, 15 minutes for buns, 12 minutes for personal pan pizzas and sticky buns. Pizza is a little touchier to deal with on account of the toppings adding moisture. In future posts I'll write about each of the various breads I routinely make with this basic recipe and address the variables there. This bread also freezes very well. I once found a loaf of it lounging in the freezer bottom after six months, thawed it, served it and no one knew the difference, nor did I tell them...until now.

1 comment:

amanda said...

I have been searching and searching for a basic "boring" bread recipe that can be messed with and altered and made wonderful no matter what and I found yours!!! I am ecstatic!! I have a recipe blog as well that I keep up as I have time but have started educating and encouraging women in the homemaking "arts" on a near monthly basis in my community through demonstrations and teaching. I would love permission to use your recipe and blog article as a basis for my breads class coming in mid-April. I will give proper credit back to you for your creative genius. I would appreciate a response to my request as soon as possible. is my main online contact. Thanks!