Confession: I have never baked a loaf of bread from scratch in my entire life.
Second confession: I very rarely make New Year’s resolutions.
Third confession: I am madly and completely in love… with my new Kitchen Aid mixer. She’s red and shiny and I named her Babs. Babs is beautiful and helpful and she has a dough hook, which was just beggin’ to be used.
Thus, I resolved this year to learn to bake bread. And I decided to do it using vintage recipes-and my new mixer-the perfect combination of old world taste and modern convenience-or so I hope.
With that in mind, I began researching recipes. Actually, I looked at some modern bread making tips and recipes and then tried to find a vintage recipe that looked similar-and simple. Most vintage recipes contain giant amounts of ingredients-seven pounds of flour, a pint of yeast, and an unspecified amount of milk, sugar or water. In the vintage kitchen, all the baking for one week was typically done in one day-thus, the huge recipes. Since I’m a bread novice, I steered clear of any recipe where I’d have to guess the amount of any ingredient.
I finally found what I was looking for in, of all things, a child’s cookbook. “A Little Book for a Little Cook” was published in 1905 by Pillsbury, designed to teach little girls how to cook the basics-using their products.
Here is the recipe, which I followed pretty closely.
• 1/2 cup boiling water
• 1/2 cup milk
• 1/2 cake yeast (this amounts to 2 and a quarters teaspoons of yeast)
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 3 cups flour
Pour 1/2 cup boiling water into 1/2 cup milk. Let cool to lukewarm. Stir in dissolved yeast and salt. Pour mixture into mixing bowl and add flour.
Now, the recipe tells you to turn the bread onto a kneading board and knead until smooth. But I knew I could let my dough hook do the work. I let Babs knead the dough for 10 minutes on speed three. When she was done, the bread was clinging to the hook but was elastic and not sticky.
I placed the dough in a bowl, brushed it with oil to keep it from getting sticky, and covered it tightly with a towel.
The recipe says to let the bread rise until three times the original size in a warm place. I really don’t have a warm place in my house that’s out of reach of my constantly hungry dog. Instead, I heated by oven to its lowest temperature-170 degrees. Then I turned it off and opened the door for 30 seconds. I put the bread inside and waited.
After an hour, the dough got to about two and a half times its original size and I thought that was good enough! I let my youngest daughter “punch her down”-this is where you basically punch the dough to remove all the air bubbles.
I let Babs knead the dough again for about 2 minutes. Then, I put the dough in a bread pan, the bottom of which I’d sprayed with cooking oil. I reheated the oven again, turned it off, opened the door again for 30 seconds, and popped the dough back in.
I took the bread out and heated the oven to 375 degrees. Then I baked the bread for 30 minutes.
The recipe ends by saying, “It will be well to consult some experienced person as to lightness of sponge and dough.” Well, I don’t have any experience but I can tell you the bread was delicious-it was spongy but I wouldn’t call it light. Hearty is a good work to describe it. It was delicious-and the house smelled fabulous-and isn’t that the point of making your own bread?
Next blog post: A cake that looks like a beautiful winter landscape and tastes like Florida sunshine.