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Bread – “The Staff of Life” it is said. Bread plays such a huge part in our lives. It is the basis for pizza; we wouldn’t have a sandwich without bread holding it together, and how about a bagel with cream cheese? Grains seem to evoke a calm and peaceful serenity, such as in “America the Beautiful,” in the line that says, “…for amber waves of grain.” And who can resist that rich yeasty aroma of fresh bread baking? Heavenly.

I started making bread when I was about 21 years old. My Mom made bread with a recipe that her Mother used; one that she brought when she came to this country from Slovakia early in the 1900s. I watched my Mom make this bread for holidays from my earliest years. While she usually bought sandwich bread, when she made her own bread, it was one of the highlights of my life; a super-special time. My sisters and I would collect around the table when Mom worked with the dough. She would give each of us a little ball of dough to play with (about enough to form one roll), while she formed the loaves. Sometimes, after much handling, our little balls would not be worth much, but she would still set them aside to rise and bake them anyway. These are treasured memories; the kind of memories that you could also share with your children.

I moved to Guatemala in 1970. Sandwich bread there was not the best, mainly because in Guatemala they had all sorts of fresh breads and rolls delivered to the houses daily. A man on a bicycle, with a huge wicker basket attached to the handlebars, would arrive and toot a bicycle horn, signaling he had arrived. For pennies you had a grand assortment of fresh breads. And of course I could never forget the ubiquitous corn tortillas, also delivered daily to the door. Between the marvelous assortment of breads and tortillas, sandwich bread did not play a huge part in Guatemalan life. I, however, coming from the States, wanted my sandwiches! When my Mom came to visit, I asked her for her bread recipe. She gave it and I tried it out. I figured, how hard could it be? The first time, I had the water too hot, and I killed the yeast. I realized this very soon after doing it, when the yeast didn’t “bloom.” I got another packet and tried again; a success. The bread turned out fine, and was delicious. My in-laws were impressed; though they didn’t consider it a necessity, it was still really good bread! After time, I got used to the look and feel of a good dough, and my skill improved.

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Bacon Chile Cornbread
rich with bacon and both canned chiles and fresh jalapeno
Caraway Rye Bread
     this seed studded rye can be made simply or with additions
Cinnamon Raisin Bagels
     chewy, just a little sweet and full of raisins and cinnamon
Double Chocolate Bread
     chocolate dough with cocoa and chocolate chips
what is proofing, instant rise yeast; this and more
Gouda, Beer and Bacon Bread
     fantastic for sandwiches or all alone
Herbed Onion Loaf
     a spectacularly flavored bread
Italian Bread
     a mildly flavored bread to go with any Italian meal
Multi Grain and Seed Bread
     a tender loaf with just enough texture and flavor
My Kitchen-Aid Mixer Bread
     my modernized version of Mom's recipe
Oatmeal Bread
     rich oatmeal raisin bread; great toast or a sandwich

Pizza Dough

     excellent made into bread, also
Soft Pretzels
     chewy and delicious in just 2 hours
  a rich German holiday bread made with fruit and nuts
Swedish Limpa Rye Bread
     far different than the caraway rye breads

Confusing Language

Some of the terms used in bread-making may sound like a foreign language.  Believe me, after moving to Guatemala at age 20 (and with 3 years of high school French my only foreign language experience), I know how frustrating it can be to read a recipe with unfamiliar and seemingly foreign terms.  The worst part of it all being that these words are all words you know – but now being used in a foreign manner.  What’s up with that!?  Any craft has particular words that apply to that craft.  This is no different.  I have a glossary of terms you can refer to while reading a recipe.  You never have to feel like you’ve landed in a foreign country without a guide!  I made a short Glossary of Bread Baking Terms for you.

These days, there are all varieties of breads available to us at every turn.  From plain white sandwich loaves to the most heavenly Artisanal breads, the choices abound.  And yet, as all these choices are set in front of us all, less and less people want to try their hands at making it.  It is really simple; a few basic principles to keep in mind about the use of yeast and the handling.  These days, with the availability of “instant yeasts”, there is no need to
proof the yeast beforehand.

Some claim they don’t have the time.  Yet at some point, we are all at home for a few hours.  We clean the house, or clean up dishes, or relax in front of the TV or read a good book.  We play with our children, help them with homework.  All these things are done at home, and during the time we are accomplishing these things, your bread could be gently

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Grandmas bread recipe 1
Front and back of a well-used recipe card for Mom's (& Grandma's) bread recipe.  I wrote it out as Mom told it to me, and made it this way for many long years.
Grandmas bread recipe 2

These days, I use my Kitchen-Aid Mixer, and changed a few things - see My Kitchen-Aid Mixer Bread recipe.

It takes about 15 minutes to get a batch of bread started, including the kneading period. After that it can be anywhere from 1 – 3 hours, depending on the ambient temperature of the room, and the type of dough, during which you are completely free to do other things. Sometimes, bread dough needs a second rising period, so at the end of that first rising period, you come back and briefly deflate the dough, then go back to whatever you would like for another half-hour or so. When that time is up, you will work with it, which involves greasing pans if using pans, dividing the dough into loaf-sized portions, forming it and placing in the prepared pans. All this can take about 5 – 8 minutes. Allow the dough to rise again and bake – usually 30 to 45 minutes.

Actual time needed to be attending to the dough? Just about 20 to 25 minutes, total. The actual time from start to the finish of your own fantastic bread? About 3 to 4 hours, generally. All of us are at home for at least that amount of time, some days. Some breads are much quicker to make, and some take longer, but this is a good estimate. Try it out!

Go to Glossary of Bread Making Terms
Return to main Recipes page
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Welcome page
Visit: A Harmony of Flavors Marketplace