Sunday, February 13, 2011

Our weekly bread


For the past two years now I've been lucky enough to have the ability to bake my own bread each week. At first it was out of necessity; it's a lot cheaper to bake amazing, healthy bread then it is to buy healthy, high-quality bread. Now it's out of the love of baking; the rewarding feeling that comes from sharing my hand-made, home-baked loaves and the joy of baking with others (especially my son) is unmatched.

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I take one (or two) days each week and dedicate their theme to baking two to six loaves of bread for my family. Some weeks  are busy and I revert to my impossible-to-fail "Amish white bread" recipe. Other weeks are more relaxed and I put a bit more time and love into my loaves and bake the amazing Rustic Italian Loaf from Cooks Illustrated (worth every moment of it's creation!).

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This past week was one of my busier weeks; my boss was out of town for 9 days, leaving myself and a couple of gracious part-timers to run the store. *My one day away from the store was spent running two cars around town for servicing with my amazingly tolerant toddler, with the hope of baking bread sometime before midnight. *(whine.)

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We finally made it back to the house around 3pm and I was, at last,  able to start baking. Since we didn't have plans for the remainder of the day, I decided to hunt through my cookbooks to find a new bread recipe. What I landed on was a recipe for "Best-Ever Beer Bread" from Something Special From Wisconsin, 1987. Since I have a tendency to alter recipes and I wanted  a little bit firmer, heavier loaf, I chose to add quick oats and used a bit of honey to reduce the amount of cane sugar involved. From start to finish, the bread took right about 4 hours to complete. Try my recipe for the Improved "Best-Ever Beer Bread" and you too could be enjoying a crusty, warm slice of bread with butter for breakfast.

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Improved Best-Ever Beer Bread
Based on a recipe from “Something Special From Wisconsin”, circa 1987

Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 (12 oz) can beer (I'm sad to admit I used Budwiser)
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 4 to 5 cups flour, divided
  • 1  cup quick oats
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 egg, beaten (for washing loaves before baking)
  • 1/4 cup quick oats (for topping loaves)


Tools:
  • Medium Sauce Pan
  • Stove
  • Stand mixer with dough hook
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Flexible bowl scraper
  • Two 9"x5" bread pans (I'm a HUGE fan of pyrex bread pans)
  • Bakers knife
  • Plastic wrap
  • Oven

Process:
  1. Combine water, beer and oil in saucepan: heat to 120 to 130 degrees. Set aside. 
  2. Combine 2 cups flour, 1 cup oats, yeast, sugar and salt in bowl of stand mixer. Add beer mixture and honey. Beat 5 minutes on speed 2 of mixer. Stir in enough remaining flour to make a soft dough. 
  3. Turn dough out on floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in warm place, free from drafts, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. 
  4. Punch dough down; divide in half with bowl scraper. Shape each half into a loaf, place in 2 greased 9x 5 loaf pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place 45 minutes or until doubled. 
  5. Brush with egg, then sprinkle with remaining oats. Using a bakers knife, cut 3 slices in top of loaf no more then 1/3" deep.
  6. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when tapped and have a nice golden brown color on top.
  7. Slice and eat warm, if possible.
Enjoy!