Monday, May 23, 2011

the recipe and a *giveaway*

Now, let's get on to that bread you've been asking about...

I think there's a part of me that has always been deeply in love with homebaked bread. I remember waking to my dad's fresh baked cinnamon raisin bread as a kid, how the sweet smell seemed to fill and warm the house. Through so many ways, I have come to see how the food we share with others can provide much more than nutrition, an offering of nourishment and sustenance for more than just our bodies. I try to be conscious of this through the many rounds of meals and snacks and treats this kitchen of ours sees, and it is in the rhythms of baking bread that I find I am most fully brought back to this idea.

It's true that baking our own bread aligns with my thoughts on healthful eating, it's a step down the path towards self-reliance and it certainly saves us money. But I think what I value most about bread making is the doing. Each piece of the process of mixing, kneading, rising, resting, shaping and baking brings an opportunity to be grounded here where I am. It all draws me in... the rhythm of working the dough with my hands, the transformation that each rising brings, the connection I feel to the history of this particular work. I find it very meditative (oh, I do know I'm not the first), and I am grateful for the moments of peace and reflection found in the attention the dough requires throughout our day. (And I should mention, too, the gratitude I feel for bakers and grocers who go on tending this work for those times when I'm not feeling it).

Yes, bread making for me seems to come in waves, and when I am deep in the middle of bread baking bliss, it's hard to imagine not always loving the work. With all the recent jams and jellies and such around here, we've been baking full tilt, two loaves every two or three days. We've worked through quite a few recipes over the years, but our current version seems to be the favorite. I love the simplicity in the recipe, finding I can easily put a batch together from memory even in my sleepy early morning fog.

I've been getting so much encouragement and confidence from The Laurel's Kitchen Bread Book, a truly wonderful whole grains baking guide found on the 50 cent rack at a used book sale. I can't say enough good things about this book. I love the recipes, it's true, but more than that I love her writing. She has a way of bringing the reader in, making you feel as though she is there in the kitchen with you, guiding you through the process. I must admit that the stories and anecdotes she includes have found me reading this book even when I wasn't about to bake from it. The troubleshooting handbook and the step-by-step guide through her "loaf for learning" truly help deconstruct the task of making good bread.

Fully explaining all the steps to making bread by hand is beyond the scope of this one little (rambling) post, which is why I'd like to share with you the book that has made it all seem so simple to me. There is a newer version of this book out there, but in the spirit of thrifting that first brought me to this fantastic book, I have another copy of the version I love that I'd like to pass along to you. If you're interested, leave a comment (maybe sharing with us some of your favorite bread recipes and tips...) and a winner will be chosen next week.

Laurel speaks in her book of the task of bread baking as part of a reformation of sorts "... particularly because it is so immediate and personal, and so well within nearly everyone's reach," that this small act can assure people that "indeed life can be both simpler and more challenging, but much more satisfying in the bargain." I tend to agree with her.

And now, here's our recipe, inspired by Laurel's yogurt bread. I've altered it a bit as I have yet to find 100% whole wheat bread flour. Here's how we do it:

Whole Grain Yogurt Bread

6 Tbsp. warm water
1 tsp. active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cups bread flour
1 tsp. salt
1/3 cup cold yogurt
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 Tbsp. honey

Dissolve yeast in 6 Tbsp. warm water. Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine yogurt with 2/3 c. hot water. Mix in oil and honey. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the liquid ingredients (yeast, yogurt, water, oil and honey.) Begin mixing the ingredients to form the dough. A good dough will be soft and sticky, but you can adjust the consistency at this point by adding flour or liquid as needed.

From here, the dough will be kneaded until smooth and elastic, left to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 - 2 hours, deflated and left to rise again (45 min- 1 hour) before being rounded, shaped and baked in a loaf pan at 350 for 1 hour. This recipe makes one loaf but is easily doubled.

I'm hoping that many of you who've asked about our bread will give this a try (and be sure to let me know how it turns out or if you have any questions along the way). And I am hoping that you will all find as much pleasure in the doing as in the finished product.

The giveaway is decided! Congratulations to Meg who won the copy of Lauren's Kitchen Bread Book . Happy bread baking to you!


Katherine said...

Oh, yes please! Thank you for the recipe and the chance to share the book.

Elise said...

I've been anxious for this recipe! Thank you! My favorite bread to make is Irish Soda Bread:) What a great giveaway!

Sara said...

Oh I was waiting for this one, too! Thanks for sharing the recipe and for the chance to get the book. I don't have a blogger account, so I'll e-mail you my contact info in case I'm the lucky one!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I have that book! I haven't used it yet, but now I think I'm inspired!

Linda said...

Thank you so much for the lovely giveaway and for the recipe:)

Meg said...

Thanks for sharing the recipe! It totally looks like something I could handle making. :)

I sometimes long for a simpler life (well, a simpler life with Internet access, hahaha) and baking our own bread some of the time will help me do that! :) Awesome giveaway! I would love to win!! :)

cindy said...

Cant wait to try the recipe...Thanx for the chance to win the book...