You have all got to be getting tired of hearing about me so much lately :-) But a few days ago, a new visitor came to my site. In the course of responding to her, I found an awesome meme idea on her site that I just love. I think it would be fascinating to see what all I'm able to remember(and I hope you guys will find it interesting as well!), so I'm going to begin with it and see how far I get. If you're interested, please join me!
The meme is a "memories by year" theme, where you are supposed to record an important or favorite memory from each year (you don't do this all in one day, of course). It could be that you learned to read, or ride your bike, or graduated from high school, etc. The idea is to go from age 1 to your present age. I probably won't do them in order, because I will go by whatever memory is inspiring me at the moment. But I hope, eventually, to have one for each year!
Since my family cooked a lot through the years, I'm also hoping to share with you some favorite family recipes as I go. Today's post is going to be one of those. Now, if you're anything like me, you can't remember precisely when some things may have occurred, but you'll remember about when they happened. Such is the case today.
My Nana, whom you'll "meet" in a moment, gets part of the credit for teaching me how to cook. She and I used to bake bread (and make other things in the kitchen) when I would go to visit her, and this bread recipe is one of my all-time favorites. It's a basic white bread recipe, and I rarely eat white bread these days. But I love this recipe because even the smell of this baking reminds me of Nana. And it still makes the best grilled cheese sandwich ever!
So here's my first entry for this meme - I learned to bake bread at age 8 (or thereabouts :-) But before I give you the recipe, here's a pic of my Nana, one of the wonderful grandmothers who have had a huge impact on my life.
In the spirit of bringing up old family memories, I'm going to post what I am pretty sure is her college graduation photo. She would love that I am using a "young" picture of her, and it's one of my favorite photos of her. Nana, we sure do miss you!
Because I could not resist making this recipe, I've got a few photos for you. It's not quite step-by-step, but if you aren't familiar with baking bread, don't be afraid to try. I hope these pics will give you an idea, anyway. Baking your own bread is mostly a hands-off, quick and easy deal that just takes time that you can use to do something else. This recipe takes maybe 4 hours start to finish, but it's largely unattended.
So following the recipe, when your dough is the correct consistency, it will look about like this. Notice that the dough mixture has basically cleaned the work bowl on its own:
When you get the dough into the oiled bowl (where it will rest for its first rise), it will look something like this - make sure you use a bowl that leaves room for it to grow!
After its first rise, when you turn it out to form the loaves, you'll have something about like this. Notice its more "puffy" texture? That's good!
You'll need a couple of six-cup or 8-inch loaf pans. Mine look like these, but you can pour water in yours to measure them if you're unsure. As long as they hold about 6 cups, you'll be fine.
Now, when you cut the dough in half to make loaves, each "flattened" half will look something like this. You don't want to roll it out; that will take too much air out of it. Just flatten it gently with your hands:
Next, roll each one up, sealing the seams:
Place it in a greased pan (I use butter, because it's already an ingredient of the recipe and won't add off-flavors):
And you'll end up with this:
On the second rise, you'll see that they just about double in size and begin to fill out the pans. I placed mine on our counter over the dishwasher (which was running), so the added warmth helped speed up the rising process:
And once they are baked, aside from an absolutely heaven-sent aroma floating through your house, you'll be able to show off this:
Friends, family and husband will rise up and call you blessed! Happy baking!
My Favorite White Bread
1 pkg active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup hot water
1 stick (1/2 cup) butter, cut into 8 pieces
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
3/4 cup warm water
5 to 7 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Dissolve yeast in 1/4 cup warm water. Combine the 1 cup hot water, butter, sugar and salt in a bowl and let cool until about 115 degrees (butter doesn't have to be melted completely). Lightly grease two (6 cup/8inch) loaf pans.
In a food processor with plastic blade (or dough hook), add the 3/4 cup warm water, 3 cups of the flour and the yeast mixture. Process a few seconds until mixed. Add the butter mixture and 1 cup flour, processing briefly and then continuing to add flour, 1 cup at a time, until dough is soft but not sticky. It should bounce back gently when touched. You may not need all the flour, so go slowly. As with many baked items, the amount needed will vary on any given day.
Shape dough loosely into a ball, and place in a lightly oiled bowl.
Turn the dough to coat lightly. Cover the bowl and let rise in a warm place (80-85 degrees) until doubled in size (or until an indentation made with two fingers stays indented).
Punch dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured board or clean countertop. Cut the dough in half and gently flatten each half into an 8x11 rectangle. Press out any air bubbles you find. Roll each half tightly from the short edge to form loaves. Pinch the center seams to seal, fold ends under and seal edges. Place seam side down in the loaf pans, cover and let rise again until doubled, about 1.5 hours.
Preheat oven to 375, and bake in center of oven for 35-40 minutes or until done. Remove from pans and cool on wire rack. Or serve warm - slice and enjoy!
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