Hot tips to home sellers -- mow the lawn, tidy the rooms and bake bread. The tantalizing aroma of freshly baked bread is guaranteed to seduce all buyers. In an ever-changing world, homemade bread still conjures visions of home and hearth when apple pie cooled on the sill and mom in gingham apron spent her morning happily shaping loaves of dough.
In the "Good Old Days" breadmaking was serious business. Since a week's supply of bread was made at a time, a strong arm was need for kneading. No tennis elbows then. Homemade yeast, together with flour and liquid (usually water) was formed into a "sponge," which then rose overnight. Baking was accomplished in coal or wood-burning stoves which demanded frequent stoking.
Enter the plastic age. We drive to the nearest supermarket and buy packaged bread which in the words of James Beard, "is doctored with nutrients and preservatives and has abouit as much gastronomic importance as cotton wool." Not only are you denied the biological benefits, you are also denied the sensual and soul-satisfying feeling of baking your own bread.
So, don your apron and begin.
Breadmaking need not intimidate even the neophyte. Short of murdering the yeast, there is little you can do to destroy your bread. Under-risen or overbaked, it is still superior to the pre-packaged product.
Yeast is a living organism that thrives on sugar, warmth and moisture. In the process it "ferments," producing a gas, carbon dioxide. The gluten (or protein) within the flour imprisons the fermenting yeast and the entrapped gas bubbles cause the dough to rise.
The type of flour used in breadmakingis of the utmost importance: The higher the gluten content, the greater its elasticity and the more effective its entrapment of the more effective its entrapment of the yeast gases. Flour with high-content gluten produces firm and fine-textured bread.
The best is hard-wheat flour, used by professional bakers and available in health food stores. Some supermarkets also package their own brand of "bread flour." Lacking either, try unbleached all-purpose flour, which is a combination of hard and soft wheat and which can be used successfully in most recipes.
The yeast itself must be alive in order to "work" upon the dough and force its rise. Although packest of active dry yeast show an expiration date I remain very skeptical, so I "proof" it to assure that it is alive and kicking. r
To proof yeast empty the packet into a bowl, or for compressed yeast, unwrap the individual cakes and place them in a bowl. Add a pinch or two of sugar and some of the liquid called for in the recipe (1/4 cup warm liquid to 1 packet active dry or 1/2 ounce compressed). Within 5 to 10 minmutes the blended mixture should be foamy and bubbly. If so, you are assured of lift off and project bread is ready for launching.
Meanwhile, you have assembled the other ingredients, greased the required bread pans, located a warm, cozy place for the dough to rise (75 to 80 degrees is optimum) and are now ready to proceed.
One word of caution: beware the mortal enemy of yeast-high temperature. Compressed yeast wil not live above 95 degrees. Active dry is a mite e sturdier and can handle 115 degrees.
Do not search frantically for a thermometer. Using your own body temperature -- 98 degrees -- as a guage, the liquid should seem just a bit warm or cool to touch.
It is not necessary to follow the recipe compulsively with regard to amounts of flour or rising times. These vary with fluctuations in room temperature, humidity, etc. The important factors are proper and sufficient kneading as well as the incorporation of enough flour to produce a workable dough.
Bread is the antithesis of delicate pastry dough in that it cannot suffer enough abuse. So vent all your frustrations onto the dough as you slap, knead it and pound it into submission. You'll be a better person for it.
An especially mean recipe will withold information regarding the rising time for the dough, simply stating that it must double in bulk, whatever that means. Let's make it definite through use of the "rising test:" Fearlessly plunge two fingers into the dough creating a depression of 1 to 2 inches.
Then watch. If the holes close immediately the dough is actively on the rise: it they remain empty for a minute or two, only gradually filling, your dough has risen enough. You are now ready to punch it down, let it rise again or shape it depending on your recipe. ANADAMA BREAD (1 large or 2 small loaves)
This bread has many fanciful legends concerning its name. The most popular is the reference to Anna as such a darn good baker that her spouse, in praising her exploits, referred to her as "Anna, damn her." 1 packet active dry yeast or 1/2 ounce compressed yeast 1teaspoon sugar 1 1/2 cups warm water 1/4 cup dark molasses 2 talblespoons soft butter 1 tablespoon salt 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal 4 to 5 cups all-purpose flour or "bread flour"
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast and the sugar in 1/4 cup of the warm water and allow to "proof." Butter a large mixing bowl in which the dough will rise. Meanwhile, heat together the remaining water with the molasses. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and the salt. Cool to lukewarm and add to the proofed yeast. Beat in the cornmeal. Add 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, until you have a soft, very sticky dough. Spread 1 cup of flour upon your working surface and turn the dough onto it. Work with a pastry scraper or large spatula, scraping under the dough and folding it over on itself, adding more flour to the board if necessary. Keep turning and folding with the scraper until you can knead with your hands. kKnead until smooth and springy to the touch. The dough will still be slightly sticky.
Form the dough into a ball and place in the buttered bowl, turning it over once so that all sides are coated with butter. Cover loosely with a towel and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Grease and flour one large (10 inch) or two small (8 inch) loaf pans. punch down the dough, form into loaves and allow to rise in the pans until slightly swelled (15 to 20 minutes.) Bake in the center of the oven for 10 minutes. Turn the heat down to 350 degrees and bake large loaf for about 35 minutes more, or smaller loaves "test done." Cool on racks. (Remove the bread from pan and tap the bottom with your knuckles. It should sound hollow.)