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Never too busy to make bread

By Ilene Duffy

Ilene Duffy

Issue #114 • November/December, 2008

Summer vacation came to an abrupt end. Sons are back in school. My "soccer mom" folding chair is in the trunk of the car. The daytimer is getting filled with dates and times of cross country meets and soccer games. The living room of our house is undergoing a renovation. Step-daughter, Annie, and the two darling grandkids have recently moved in to live with us while her Marine Corp hubby heads off to Iraq. I'm busy, but never bored.

Pretty as a picture. This is one batch of bread that became a braided loaf as well as a dozen dinner rolls.
Pretty as a picture. This is one batch of bread that became a braided loaf as well as a dozen dinner rolls.

So when I thought about what this issue's cooking column should be about, I thought of baking bread. I might be a busy mom, but it doesn't really take that much time to throw ingredients into my bread machine, let it run through the dough cycle, then take that nice elastic dough out and shape it into rolls or a long loaf for some fresh bread for my family. And I know I'm not the only mom with a busy schedule, so I thought I'd share some cookbooks and recipes for some easy, nutritious breads.

It's easy to get inspired to bake more when we have such talented writers like Claire Wolfe, who in the Sept/Oct 2008 issue, gave us good reasons why we might want to bake more bread. And in this issue, beginning on page 8, our friend, Richard Blunt, goes into depth about the use of whole grains in home-baked breads. Hence, the idea came to us for this issue's cover. Why not bake a bunch of breads, set them in a nice display, take a picture, and voila, the makings of the cover for this issue as well as a nice snack for the staff. So the other night, husband Dave and I loaded up my car with bowls, measuring cups, the bread machine, and most of the ingredients needed to make several loaves of bread right in our office kitchen. It smelled really good in our office for a couple of days while I took turns between bread making and editorial duties. Our office crew wasn't too happy with me though, when I wouldn't let them eat the breads until after we got a good picture to use for the cover. Sometimes you just have to be patient.

I baked a total of 7 loaves of bread over the course of 2 days here in the office. Just some of those breads are pictured on the cover of this issue, but I'll share as many recipes as this space allows.

Surprisingly, it doesn't take very many ingredients to make a variety of breads. From left: Italian seasoning, yeast, salt, sugar, flax seeds, poppy seeds, butter, milk, cinnamon, sunflower seeds, eggs, olive oil, bread flour, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, oat bran, and yogurt. Not pictured are bananas.
Surprisingly, it doesn't take very many ingredients to make a variety of breads. From left: Italian seasoning, yeast, salt, sugar, flax seeds, poppy seeds, butter, milk, cinnamon, sunflower seeds, eggs, olive oil, bread flour, whole wheat flour, brown sugar, oat bran, and yogurt. Not pictured are bananas.

One of the things that amazed me while mixing up these loaves was how few ingredients were needed to make quite a variety of breads. Some of the breads I made were sweet, some were savory, others full of nuts and oatmeal, some with eggs and milk. But all these breads had one thing in common. I only spent between 5 and 10 minutes of preparation before each loaf was ready to start the dough cycle in my bread machine.

And I have a confession to make. I can't leave well enough alone. Every recipe I decided to try was changed to accommodate the ingredients I brought from home or already had here at the office. Sometimes I changed the recipe just because I felt like it. I've learned from past bread making mistakes that if I decide to add more dry ingredients than the original recipe calls for, I also add a bit more liquid. You'll notice in the recipes below when I say "plus 2 Tbsp. milk," you can bet that this was a change I made in the recipe to allow for more dry ingredients that I had added.

I'd be lost without some of my favorite cookbooks. The three I used were: The Olive and the Caper by Susanna Hoffman, Workman Publishing (available through our bookstore and online at www.backwoodshome.com), Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand by Beatrice Ojakangas, Wiley Publishing, Inc., and a Better Homes and Gardens publication titled Bread Machine Bounty.

This first recipe is taken from the Whole Grain Breads by Machine or Hand book. I've changed it significantly from the original recipe which uses poppy and sesame seeds as well. Also, I decided to grind the flax seeds since you get more nutrition from the ground seeds, as compared to leaving them whole.

Oatmeal seed bread

Here's the wheat and seed bread dough just out of the bread machine.
Here's the wheat and seed bread dough just out of the bread machine.

1-1/3 cups water, plus 2 Tbsp.
2 Tbsp. olive oil
¾ tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. flax seeds, ground
¼ cup raw sunflower seeds
2 Tbsp. dry cereal mix
2 pgks. instant plain oatmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
2-1/3 cups bread flour
2 tsp. active dry yeast or bread machine yeast

Put water and olive oil in a ceramic bowl or measuring cup and warm in microwave until just warmed through. Pour into bread machine.

In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients except yeast. Dump dry mixture on top of liquid in bread machine. Form a well in center of flour mixture and place the yeast into the well. Start the dough cycle in bread machine.

When the dough cycle is done, prepare a cookie sheet with a bit of olive oil spread in the center as well as a sprinkling of flour. Take dough out of bread machine. Knead gently on floured board and shape into a circle. Place on cookie sheet, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise in a warm place for about an hour. Bake at 350° F for about 25 minutes until golden.

Wheat and seed bread is hearty, but not heavy. Sliced thin, this makes a nice grilled cheese sandwich. Yum.
Wheat and seed bread is hearty, but not heavy. Sliced thin, this makes a nice grilled cheese sandwich. Yum.

The next recipe is about the easiest and quickest recipe I've ever found. It's based on a bread recipe from The Olive and the Caper which is a really nice Greek cookbook I've recently discovered. Maybe before next issue I'll have time to let my family be guinea pigs for some of the recipes in this book and I'll let you know how they turn out.

Country bread

¼ cup olive oil
1 cup warm water, plus 2 Tbsp.
2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. dry cereal mix
½ tsp. salt
2 tsp. active dry yeast or bread machine yeast

Put the olive oil and water in a ceramic bowl, then warm in microwave until just warmed through. Add liquid to the bread machine pan. In a separate bowl, mix together all dry ingredients except yeast. Add dry ingredients to the bread machine pan. Make a well in the center of the flour. Place yeast in the well. Set machine to the dough cycle.

When done, prepare one long loaf pan or 2 regular bread loaf pans with oil and flour. Gently knead the dough to release the gas. Form dough to fit pan(s). Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour. Bake at 350° F for about 25 minutes until golden.

Everybody winds up with a few overripe bananas at some point. This recipe is even faster to throw together than an unleavened sweet bread.

Banana cinnamon bread

All banana bread ingredients are in the bread machine pan ready to start the dough cycle.
All banana bread ingredients are in the bread machine pan ready to start the dough cycle.

2/3 cup milk plus 2 Tbsp.
½ cup mashed ripe banana (1 small banana)
1 egg
2 Tbsp. butter
2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. dry cereal mix
3 Tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. active dry yeast or bread machine yeast

In a ceramic bowl mix together the milk, mashed banana, egg, and butter. Warm in microwave until butter is very soft. Mix gently, then add to bread machine pan. In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients except the yeast. Make a well in center of flour mixture. Add yeast to the well. Set machine to the dough cycle.

When done, prepare one long loaf pan with oil and flour. Gently knead the dough to release the gas. Form dough to fit pan. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour. Bake at 350° F for about 25 minutes until golden.

Sometimes you just have to try something new. With the following recipe, I decided to halve the dough and braid one of the halves to fit into a regular loaf pan. I divided the other half into 12 equal portions, rolled them into balls, and placed in a greased and floured muffin pan to make rolls. See the picture on page 62 to see the end result from this batch of bread. So pretty!

This loaf is the finished banana bread, baked in my long loaf pan
This loaf is the finished banana bread, baked in my long loaf pan

Egg bread with raisins

1 cup milk plus 2 Tbsp.
1 egg
1 Tbsp. butter
2 cups bread flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp. dry cereal mix
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
½ cup raisins
2 tsp. active dry yeast or bread machine yeast

In a ceramic bowl mix together the milk, egg, and butter. Warm in microwave until butter is very soft. Mix gently, then add to bread machine pan. In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredients and the raisins, but not the yeast. Make a well in center of flour mixture. Add yeast to the well. Set machine to the dough cycle.

When done, prepare one regular-sized loaf pan and 1 muffin pan with oil and flour. Gently knead the dough to release the gas. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions. Take one of the halves and divide into thirds. Form each of the thirds into a strip of dough about 12 inches long and braid. Gently squeeze ends together so the braid won't come apart as it's rising. Place the braid into a loaf pan. Divide the remaining half into 12 portions, roll by hand into balls, and place in muffin pan. Cover loaf and rolls with a damp cloth and let rise in a warm place about 1 hour. Loaf needs to bake about 25 minutes at 350° F, but the rolls only need to bake for 15-20 minutes until golden.

And before I forget, for all of you internet users, we're about to launch a new part of our website called www.backwoodscooking.com. With this new website, we'll be sharing recipes, menus of the week, and articles about cooking. People who wish to will have the ability to post their own recipes to be included and shared on the site. We'll keep things organized and indexed to make it easy to navigate. Cool, huh?

Nothing like starting another project when I'm already busier than the average soccer mom. But at least I'm not too busy to make bread.




Read More by Ilene Duffy

Read More Food & Recipes Articles

 
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