Sunday, April 04, 2010

Bread and Memories

Happy Easter to those who celebrate Easter and Happy Spring to those who celebrate the mid-point between the shortest day and longest day of the year. This is actually a bit toward the longest, but you would never know it from our weather. Chilly nights, rainy days and, as a result, tulips that last and last isn't so bad, really. The apple blossoms are getting ready to bloom but have been discouraged by unseasonal cool.

One of the nice things about cooler weather is that my interest in bread baking has revived. There is something that is emotionally warming about the smell of freshly baked yeast breads.That slice of toast with marmalade goes so well with a warming cup of tea or coffee, too.

The last couple of days I've been baking or talking about baking with other bread bakers including J of the Green Thumb and Sparkle Plenty. One of the things that has come up is that my Dad used to bake loaves of bread for sandwiches. I forget if this happened a long time before he retired or shortly before, but I remember how much better I liked sandwiches made with his bread. Since we were a large family, he would bake at least four loaves on a weekend afternoon, ready for school lunches.

After he retired and I had moved to California he and I discussed bread baking because i was learning the mysteries of yeast and kneading. One of my favorite artisan breads was Struan bread, a complex loaf with mixed grains and a hearty taste. When I found a book by Brother Juniper (who used to have a cafe and bakery in nearby Forestville, although that was before I lived in the North Bay area) that had the recipe. I sent it to my Dad and he tried it. I think it was a little "crunchy granola" for him. When you consider that his simple white bread loaves were the best white bread you could have, I can't blame him for going with white and whole wheat fine flour breads. I think he made rye bread, too, probably 'deli rye'. I often think of him when I make loaves of bread, especially bread I plan to use for sandwiches.

This past week I wanted some sandwich bread for our house, so I took a recipe that included seeds and nuts and simplified it down. I used white bread flour, whole wheat flour and the 12 grain blend from King Arthur, but they are all fine flours, so the bread was a nice simple loaf with a great crunchy crust, moist fine crumb and delicious flavor.

It made great toast as well as being perfect for sandwiches. If you don't have a sourdough starter, just soften a package of yeast (about 2 teaspoons) in 1/4 cup warm (about 115 degrees F) for 10 minutes. Use that plus 3/4 cup warm water in place of the sourdough starter. It changes the flavor of the bread and usually rises a bit faster, but you will have a yummy loaf of sandwich bread. You can double the recipe for two loaves.

Sourdough Sandwich Loaf
Makes one loaf

2 cups all purpose unbleached flour
1 cup 12 - grain flour (or use additional wheat flour)
1 cup whole wheat bread flour
1 cup sourdough starter
1 1/2 cups lukewarm (70 degree F) water
1 tablespoon salt

In a large bowl mix the all purpose flour, 12 grain flour, and whole wheat flour together to combine. (I used a whisk to whisk them until combined.)
Put the starter, water and 1 cup flour mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to make a smooth batter. Use the paddle or dough hook with mixer on a low speed to work in additional 1 1/2 cups flour mixture. If not using dough hook, change to dough hook at this point. Add rest of the flour mixture to the dough, 1/2 cup at a time with the mixer on a low speed. Let the mixer knead the dough for about 5 minutes, or until dough is elastic, or turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead in the rest of the flour then knead for 5 minutes until the dough is elastic.

Lightly coat a 4-quart mixing bowl with oil and transfer the dough to the oiled bowl. Turn the dough over layer of plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise at room temperature, until it has doubled in bulk, at least 8 hours, preferably overnight.

Press the air out of the risen dough and gently knead it until it is springy again.

Shape the dough into a loaf. My method is to press the dough into a rough rectangle, roll it up like a jelly roll, tuck the ends under and then put into a prepared bread pan with the tucked ends on the bottom.

Loosely cover the loaf with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 4 hours.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Bake until well browned and sound hollow when tapped, about 35 minutes. An instant read thermometer inserted into the center of a loaf will register 200 degrees F.

Transfer the baked loaf to a cooling rack and let cool 5 minutes, then turn loaf out of bread pan. Let cool to room temperature before slicing.


  1. Beautiful eggs! Glad you've gotten some good bread in there, too!

  2. I love the smell of bread baking. It always reminds me of Dad.

    I remember he also made raisin bread. Toasted and with a light spread of butter, it was perfect with afternoon tea.

  3. Anonymous8:12 PM

    Lovely post. Also beautiful picture of your tulips. I, too, think of Dad when I make bread. Happy Easter darling sister!!
    Love, Natasha

  4. Well done with the bread
    and thanks for sharing.