A Life-Giving Loaf

by Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet on January 9, 2011

Over the past week, I thought long and hard about what I wanted to share with you in my first post of the New Year. I usually don’t find myself at a loss for words or great recipes to share, but I wanted this one to be special and meaningful. I wanted my first post to celebrate the rebirth that we each experience in every New Year. I wanted it to be a recipe that was naturally nurturing to body and soul…something that was basic, comforting and available to all of us. I thought and thought but had no profound revelation on what I should share…and then I came across an interesting food quote by Lionel Poilane which helped me decide on the title and the content of my post.

“Bread deals with living things… with giving life… with growth… with seed… a grain that nurtures. It is no coincidence when we say that bread is the staff of life.”

This simplest and most basic of foods has helped to sustain generations across the ages…whether you’re  young or old, rich or poor you have benefitted from this life giving grain. It has allowed us to live, learn and grow with nutrients from our earth that nurtured our bodies and our spirits in all good and positive ways.

So, with this lovely quote, I set out to find a delicious bread recipe to share with you all on this first post of the New Year. The recipe I chose was one from Peter Reinhart’s book called the Bread Baker’s Apprentice. I do not own this book, but have heard others rave about many of the recipes they have tried. I hope you have a chance to make this delicious bread, and if you do, don’t forget the butter….

White Bread (Variation 1) (makes 3 small loaf pans)

4 ¾ cups unbleached bread flour (21.5oz)

1 ½ teaspoons salt (.38oz)

¼ cup powdered milk (1.33oz)

3 ¼ tablespoons sugar (1.66oz)

2 teaspoons active yeast (.22oz dry, I used 1 oz fresh yeast)

1 large egg (1.65oz), slightly beaten

3 ¼ Tablespoons butter, margarine or shortening, melted or at room temp (I used canola oil)(1.66oz)

1½ cups warm water (13-14oz)

Eggwash (1 beaten egg)

Sesame or poppy seeds **optional

I used fresh yeast, so by doing this I did not have to ‘feed’ the yeast to awaken it like you have to do when the yeast comes in dry form. The yeast is already alive and will begin to draw its food from the environment immediately. I measured out all of the dry ingredients into the mixer bowl and used the paddle attachment to begin mixing the dry ingredients.  I dissolved the fresh yeast in 13 oz of warm water. I am always conservative with the water when I make bread dough, because your environment (dry or humid) will always influence how much liquid you will use. I slowly began adding the water and yeast mixture into the dry ingredients and let the paddle do all of the mixing for me. Once the liquid was incorporated, I added the egg and oil and continued to beat the dough with the paddle for about 10 minutes. Then I turned out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and kneaded it for another 5 minutes or so until it was soft and no longer sticky. I lightly greased a bowl with a little more oil and added the dough to the bowl, making sure to move the ball of dough around so that it was completely coated with a little oil. I loosely covered it with plastic wrap, and covered it again with several kitchen towels and allowed it to double in size over the next 90 minutes. When it had risen, I deflated the dough, weighed it and evenly cut it into 2 pieces. I formed them into small loaves and deposited them into my 2 nonstick 8” loaf pans. Make sure to spray your pans with a good quality pan release, so that you do not have problems with the dough sticking to the pan after baking. If you don’t have a good pan spray, make sure to grease the pans well with either oil or butter. Allow the dough to rise for a second time in the loaf pans for about 1 hour (or until doubled), loosely covered with plastic wrap and a few kitchen towels. In this proofing, the dough rose so high that I could have easily made 3 loaves, which is why I made the change in the yield above. Once they have risen, preheat the oven to 350°F. Before placing the loaves into the oven, brush gently with the egg wash and place them onto the center rack of your oven. Bake these for approximately 35-45 minutes until golden brown on top. Once you remove them from the oven, take them out of the baking pan and allow them to cool on a rack, otherwise they will get soggy. Let them cool for 1 hour before slicing. Slather on some delicious fresh butter and take a big bite…

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Linda Witham January 9, 2011 at 10:45 p

I was there every step of the way and even for the cooling time. This one had me just about tasting the end result. Is there anything as wonderful as freshly made bread and luscious butter generously spread on top? I think not. Your first post of the year is a magnificent choice. Well done!

avatar Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella January 12, 2011 at 3:53 p

I remember the firs time I made bread. It felt so amazing to create something so basic-much like when you make cheese for the first time or butter! :)

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet January 14, 2011 at 12:41 p

Hello my darling Lorraine! Making bread is therapeutic but you have to have the time to do it…and with the few days off during the holidays, it was the perfect diversion!

avatar Caterina Borg, Good Food Gourmet January 14, 2011 at 12:45 p

Thank you my darling Linda…what a lovely thing to say…

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