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Ruth's Daily Bread

  • 2 1/4 cups water
  • 1/4 cup honey, molasses, or other sugar (1)
  • 1/4 cup butter, margarine, shortening or other fat or cooking oil
  • 1 cup oatmeal
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup rye flour (optional)
  • 1 cup or less of dry milk powder (optional)
  • 1 to 3 rounded teaspoons salt (3)
  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast (4)
  • 1 tsp diastatic malt powder (5)
  • 1/4 cup of one or more of each of the following optional ingredients: (6) wheat germ, wheat gluten, wheat bran or oat bran
  • 3 to 4 cups of all-purpose flour (bleached, unbleached, or bread flour)
I bake almost all the bread for my family of four and make pizza from scratch. I still bake the occasional doorstop but, after baking for years, I have developed a guideline for baking our Daily Bread. I can't really call it a recipe as it is different every time I bake it.

I also have a philosophy of bread baking: some things I have learned over the years about baking bread. I'll put that at the end as I'm sure you'd rather bake the stuff than read about it! (I'll put footnotes in parenthesis).

***
Combine water, honey and butter in a microwave-safe glass measuring pitcher and microwave on high for two minutes (be patient, you rascal). You may also start with hot tap water, or warm them together on the stove just until the butter melts. (2)

While the liquid is heating, measure the following into a mixing bowl:
1 cup oatmeal
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup rye flour (optional)
1 cup or less of dry milk powder (optional)
1 to 3 rounded teaspoons salt (3)
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast (4)
1 tsp diastatic malt powder (5)
1/4 cup of one or more of each of the following optional ingredients: (6)

wheat germ
wheat gluten
wheat bran
oat bran

Blend the dry ingredients thoroughly and then add the warm liquid. Beat until thoroughly blended. If you are using a heavy-duty mixer, you may mix until ribbons of gluten form. When blended, begin adding 3 to 4 cups of all-purpose flour (bleached, unbleached, or bread flour). (7)

Start with 2 cups, added one cup at a time, then begin adding flour 1/2 cup at a time, mixing and kneading until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough.

If you are using a mixer, turn the dough out on a flour-covered surface and knead at least a few turns to be sure the dough is of a good consistency.

Place in a bowl and cover (8). Place in a warm location to rise up until doubled (9). The rising time will vary but check after about thirty minutes (be patient, you rascal). Punch down the dough, knead a few turns on a flour-covered surface, and form into two(2) loaves. Place in well-greased loaf pans, oil the tops of the loaves or spray with vegetable oil spray, and cover lightly with plastic wrap. Place in a warm location to rise up until doubled in bulk.

Place in the oven, set to 350°F. Bake with love for about 40 minutes, or until evenly browned, the loaves sound hollow when tapped, and an instant-read thermometer reads 200°F when inserted into the side of the loaf.

Let cool completely before slicing or storing in plastic bags. Freeze or keep at room temperature. DO NOT REFRIGERATE BREAD! It stales more quickly in the refrigerator than in a bag at room temperature. You may also devour the bread in less time than it took to make it!

Other options for this bread:
(a) Cut off some of the dough in hunks, about the size of a ping-pong ball. Roll out the pieces and wrap hot dogs in them. Place on a greased cookie sheet about two inches apart. Let rise and bake for about 20 minutes: VOILA! Pigs in blankets!

(b) Use less water and add leftover mashed potatoes or leftover cooked cereal. You may decrease the amount of flour used. Don't use too much of the non-wheat ingredients or it may not hold together. The gluten in the wheat is necessary to hold the bread together. One cup should be about the maximum.

(c) Use cool liquid ingredients and only 1 teaspoon of yeast. Let rise at room temperature for four or more hours. This is good if your day is broken up and you can't devote the whole time to baking. You may also let the formed loaves rise in the refrigerator over night, if necessary.

(d) If you have no whole wheat or rye flours, this bread is still good if you substitute an approximately equal amount of all-purpose or bread flour. When I make it this way, I call it "Almost White Bread," since the oatmeal and optional ingredients add a moderate amount of color to it. If you don't have oatmeal or optional ingredients, use enough white flour to make a slightly sticky dough, and follow the rest of the directions. You may end up with rather large loaves with all white flour, but the object is the bread! Bake anyway!

(e) If you want to make dinner rolls, double the amounts of sugar or honey and the fats. Divide up into the right sized rolls and bake until rich golden brown. If you need more help than that, drop me an e-mail.

Footnotes:
(1) You may also use granulated white or brown sugar, or corn syrup. Many sources will tell you that sugar is a vital ingredient for bread. In fact, you can bake bread with just wheat flour, yeast, and water. It will rise and bake beautifully, but without salt it is pretty tasteless, and without sugar and fat, it won't keep more than about a day. I often make two batches of this bread, one with honey and one with dark molasses. The doughs are of different colors, and I often roll them up together to make the bread, creating a pinwheel effect.

(2) If you can hold your finger in the liquid comfortably, it is not too hot. Since you are mixing the yeast with the dry ingredients, it would be difficult to kill it unless you add boiling water.

(3) Many bread recipes call for up to 2 tablespoons of salt. I find that a little salt is necessary for good flavor but it is good to use as little as possible. You may use more if you wish.

(4) Use one packet of dry yeast if that is what you have, but if you are serious about bread baking, and do a lot of it, buy your yeast in bulk. I get mine at a local health food store for less than $3/lb, and it is really good stuff. Check the unit prices on the packets and the jars in the grocery stores if you want to get a shock. You can also mail order yeast by the pound from the King Arthur Flour bakers catalog. It runs about $5 or $6 per pound, but even with shipping costs, it is a better deal than the packets and jars. I keep it in a jar in the freezer.

(5) This is also available from King Arthur and is supposed to be a dough enhancer. They also have non-diastatic malt powder, but it is used only in bagels, f (or a little more)me reason. If you don't have it, bake anyway.

(6) These add nutrition in the case of the wheat germ, fiber in the bran, and stretchyity in the case of the gluten. None are essential to the success of the bread, but I usually add them if I have them.

(7) The flour debate rages in some circles. Unbleached flour has slightly more protein than bleached, and so should make better bread. A comparison I once read in the Washington Post food section showed that bleached flour makes better cookies, and unbleached makes better bread. Use what you have on hand and enjoy yourself! The amount of flour used in bread varies with the relative humidity, the amount of moisture already present in the flour, and, in this recipe, the amount of optional ingredients used.

(8) Should you grease the bowl? What should you use to cover the bowl? I don't usually grease the bowl as I don't want to add any unnecessary fat. Besides, I saw Julia Child bake some bread on one of her programs and she didn't grease the bowl, so that's good enough for me. Usually, I just scrape out the mixing bowl and let the dough rise in that. I cover the dough with plastic wrap, but be careful--some wraps stick. I found this out the hard way. If you have a wrap that sticks, spray the top of the dough with cooking spray or oil it. I have never covered my bread with a moist towel, though that is the classic method, and you may try it if you like.

(9) My favorite place to let dough rise is in the oven with the light on. If you have a gas oven with a pilot light, that is the perfect place. Another method to raise the temperature in the oven: I bring a teakettle full of water to a boil, and place the kettle in the oven. The heat of the water warms the oven nicely. You could turn on the oven at low for a few minutes, but I always fear that I would overheat the oven and not notice until it's too late. Too warm, and you bake the dough and kill the yeast; too cool, and you slow down, but don't stop, the rising process (see option "c", above).

Any questions or comments can be sent to Ruth reprovance@yahoo.com







Submitted by Tess M Nov 23, 2009 47 min 121 min 168 min
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