May 24, 2011

Where For Art Thou Daily Bread?

Still searching for that perfect daily sandwich bread. Something great to grill up a cheese sandwich, slather PB&J all over, or butter up in the morning with breakfast. Apparently that's too much to ask.

I've had a break for baking for awhile now. My second son, born early April, and the elder have demanded much of my time and attention these past weeks. Taking an hour to mix and knead bread wasn't happening, until today. My husband, who we will call Mr. AntiAgricorporatarian, has recently expressed an explicit desire to purchase as much food locally (meaning, within our county) as possible. We have been using Green B.e.a.n. delivery through the winter and spring months, thinking we would be eating more locally grown organic produce. It's not as local as I had anticipated, but it is organic and they try to keep it regional if not from the state (although I'm pretty sure those tomatoes they gave us four weeks ago weren't from this region). I decided I needed to start baking our daily bread if we wanted to achieve this goal.

A co-worker had given me this recipe prior to my maternity leave. The original recipe only calls for bread flour, however my co-worker along with many of the reviews state they substitute whole wheat regularly. I never had much luck with whole wheat. It's difficult to knead and has little rise to it. It also tends to be rather dense, at least when I make it.

It mixed together easily, but I did add 1 c. extra flour for proper consistency. The first rise took a little over an hour. The second rise wasn't impressive and there was little oven spring. I'm undecided. It's delicious without a doubt but its density is what I'm up in the air about. It's a moist dough and certainly the closest to good sandwich loaf bread to come out of my oven. It just feels heavy and underdone. To be fair, I subbed 2 c. whole wheat flour and 1/2 c. flax seed meal, and reduced water by 1/2 cup. My first judgement came early, as I sliced into it without a cool down.

The texture improved somewhat with time, but it still remains heavy. Slathering butter on a toasted piece helps, though.

Speaking of butter, can we discuss butter crocks for a moment? I recently purchased one because I was sick and tired of 1) using margarine, and 2) impossibly spreading cold butter. Crocks have been used for centuries and are on the vast majority of French counter tops. So why do Americans insist instead on ingesting an inferior product? I blame the post-war, mid-mod revolution: convenience.

It's a simple thing to use. Pack a stick of softened butter in the bell, fill the crock with a little water and leave it on your counter. The water creates a seal thus preventing rancid butter. Now, anytime you need it, soft spreadable butter! Do something great for yourself and your family. Buy the crock!

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