Nov. 20th, 2006 08:11 pm
oneroom: (Default)
[personal profile] oneroom
Years ago when I lived two floors up, a young and absurdly beautiful couple lived in the apartment I live in now. On my way down to the laundry room one evening, I think it was in winter, I noticed a sign on their apartment door. It said, "Please don't worry about the noise - we're having a baby!" They delivered a baby boy somewhere in this apartment that night. The next day I left a loaf of homemade bread outside the apartment door with a note of congratulations.

After the early hibernation days, the new mama came around to thank me for the bread. "It was all I wanted to eat for days," she said. Since then, this bread that's my every day bread also feels like just the right thing to bring when a baby's born. M and K's baby was born this morning, which means I'll be bringing them a loaf of this bread (now rising) tomorrow.

Plain Old Everyday Happy Mother Bread

Proof 2 packages of yeast in 1/4 C very warm water in a very large bowl. Then add 2 more C very warm water, 3 C flour*, 1/3 C honey, 1/4 oil, and 1 T salt and combine. Make sure your hands are clean, because next you'll have one hand in your container of flour and one in your bowl of dough. If you're right-handed like me, add flour (usually somewhere around 3 C) with your left hand and combine with your right until the dough is kneadable. When it's kneadable, remove it from the bowl and knead for at least ten minutes. You will probably get tired and probably want to stop, but buck up and keep going until the dough is honestly and really smooth and makes a nice solid thwack when you flick it with your finger.

Scrape your mixing bowl clean with your hands and drizzle it with some oil. Drop your dough in and then flip it over. Leave it somewhere warm for about an hour, until it doubles. After it's doubled, punch it down and divide it in two. To make the loaves, here's what you'll do with each half:

1. Flatten it into a rectangle that's somewhere in the vicinity of 1/3 of an inch thick and wider than it is tall.
2. Fold this rectangle in thirds to make a little book/folder sort of arrangement.
3. Roll the book up from top to bottom (or bottom to top), pinching and flattening as you go to make sure your roll is even.

Some people say to pinch the ends, but I never bother. Place your loaves into greased loaf pans and set them somewhere warm to rise again. Let them rise until they are nearly the size you want them to be when they're all baked and done - they will rise a bit in the oven, but not too much.

When they're ready, take a sharp, serrated knife and score the tops of the bread however you'd like. Rub some sort of milk product evenly over the top of the bread. (Somebody ought to get me a pastry brush for xmas so I can stop using my fingers.) Bake in a 350 degree oven until they're done - figure on about 40-45 minutes.**

* I buy unbleached white flour and soft wheat flour in bulk and combine them in a container at home. This is the flour I use for nearly everything.

** If you can resist cutting the bread right out of the oven, do. Sometimes I can, sometimes I can't.
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