Friday, July 31, 2009
Baking bread always reminds me of my Grandma; she was a really wonderful baker and would always make beautiful Foccacia and Challah bread. When she was going through chemotherapy for Leukemia my brother and me spent a lot of time with her. She was too sick to do much besides lay on the couch and she didn’t have much of an appetite. She would always get a hankering for one thing at a time and we would do our best to make it or buy it for her.
For awhile she liked a cool glass of buttermilk, then she wanted fresh baked bread. For about a month we made bread all of the time using her Baking with Julia book.
The longer she was sick the more she missed cooking and baking for herself and others. Because Grandma was good at whatever she did, she of course became the world’s finest backseat baker. If I let my mind go back that far, I can still hear her feeble voice calling from the couch as she supervised the bread making:
“you’re kneading it too much, that’s enough.”
“Add more flour.”
“It needs more liquid.”
Baking bread always reminds me of those days and nights in my grandma’s house. They are bittersweet memories but the more time goes by the sweeter those memories become.
A lot of times Grandma wouldn't even eat the bread after it was made, but she liked to watch us make it. I think it made her proud that her Grandchildren were making bread and she was helping us even when she was sick. Before she became sick she loved to show us how to make different dishes in the kitchen. To grandma being a good cook was very important. She had a golden rule that she taught everyone, "never return a dish empty." and she always stuck to that.
I think if she had been born a little later and been a bit more tech savvy she would have been a food blogger. I know she'd be thrilled if she knew I was doing this blog and she'd probably have a bunch of recipes picked out for us to do for it.
In honor of Grandma I went hunting for a good French bread recipe about a month ago and found this recipe at La fuji mama’s blog here. I pretty much followed it exactly with a few, slight modifications: I oiled the bowl while waiting for the bread to rise, I didn’t stir while the dough was rising, and I also added the yeast before the flour on accident. It’s different than most bread recipes because their isn’t any kneading involved, I was a little hesitant but it turned out to be very tasty. It’s a really good bread recipe, soft and moist on the inside with a nice crust. I know my grandma would have approved.
The yeast, frothy and bubbly
I used 5.5 cups of flour and it made a very sticky dough, I would highly recommend greasing your bowl well because the dough will be very sticky. I set my dough outside because I live in the desert and dough rises really, really well in 110 degree heat. Also don't worry if you don't have a mixer, I don't. It takes a bit more elbow grease but that just means you get to eat a few more pieces of bread because you worked out. At least that's what I tell myself. I recommend using a non stick spatula like the pink one pictured below.
I apologize for the following pictures, I don't have any windows in my kitchen so these have bad lighting.
Look at this monster dough! The yeast is alive and doing well, it liked it's patio rising spot.
Enjoy your freshly baked bread!
From La Fuji Mama
1 1/2 Tbsp. or 2 packets (1/4 oz./7 g each) dry active yeast
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
2 cups hot water
3 Tbsp. granulated sugar
1 Tbsp. salt
1/2 cup oil
5 - 6 cups all-purpose flour
1. Dissolve yeast, warm water, and 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar in a small bowl.
2. In a large bowl or stand mixer, combine hot water, 3 tablespoons granulated sugar, salt, and oil. Add 3 cups of flour to the mixture in the large bowl/mixer and mix well. Stir in yeast mixture.
3. Add 2 - 3 cups more flour and mix until well blended. (At this point your dough will still be quite sticky) *. Leave in bowl and let rise for 1 hour, mixing a few strokes a couple of times during the hour.
4. Divide the dough into two or three equal portions and roll out. Then roll the dough up like a jelly roll and tuck the ends in.
5. Slice the dough across the tops diagonally a few times and then brush egg whites across the tops.
6. Let the dough rise for thirty minutes before putting it in the oven.
7. Bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes.
* I added approximately 2.5 cups and that worked well.
** Make sure to grease the bowl well or you'll have a sticky mess. I also didn't mix the dough at all while it was rising.