Flying Flour, Splashing Spices, Roomful Aromas

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bread Adventure Beginnings

Hi, my name is Lisa.  Baking bread is what I do.  I am not a pro, nor do I  own or work in a bakery.  I tend to be adventuresome rather than a purist and this is how it all began.
Is a cookbook an odd thing for a teenager to buy?  It took a lot of babysitting money at fifty cents an hour but I do not recall oooooing over which cookbook to buy.   My mom didn’t use cookbooks and my grandmother only had one or two which were ancient. (I have an appreciation for them now.)  I selected Good House Keeping, the big red and beige one.  It seemed to have everything I could ever possibly need in it.
I read it like a novel.  My grandmother had taught me the proper way to set a table and she always had a table cloth, napkins and the proper flatware on the table three times a day.  But I knew nothing about what a person needed to set up a kitchen. Mom had always done that as well as the cooking and baking.  She was fast, neat and never measured anything.  So, I read and read and read.  When I got to breads, I was captivated. (page 435) That was something Mom didn’t make.  Oh, she made the best buttermilk biscuits you could ever dream of and we had scrumptious chocolate muffins hot from the oven when we came in from school, but she did not make yeast breads.  I saw this as an opportunity to be in the kitchen making something of my own.   Mom hated a mess.  She could make a huge dinner for ten or more, we could sit down at the table and the kitchen would be clean.   Not me, then or now. The yeast bread recipes intrigued me.  I shared my idea with Mom, she gathered the ingredients making a run to the grocery for the yeast, and let me have her kitchen. She didn’t even stick around to watch.  I went through the stages of making the dough, the rise, shaping and chilling.   Mom was a sport.  I did get the kitchen back to normal.  Mom made spaghetti to go with my bread.  I was so excited.  I preheated the oven and slid the loaves in, set a timer and waited.  The aroma wafted through the house, the timer went off.  Mom came to the kitchen to see.  We took the loaves from the oven and tested the bottoms for that “hollow” sound.  We couldn’t wait; we had to slice off some and smear it with butter.  There was a crunch, some crumbs and audible “mmmmm”.
I had  created something wonderful in the kitchen.  Mom liked it despite my mess.  Here is the recipe from that same cookbook which sits on my kitchen shelf today.  I have made this recipe for decades.  
Italian Bread  (from The Good House Keeping Cookbook, page 443) 
4 1/2 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 packages active dry yeast
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
salad oil
1 egg white
Early in the day or day before serving:
  1. In large bowl, combine 2 cups of flour sugar, salt and yeast; add butter or margarine.  With a mixer at low speed, gradually pour 1 3/4 cups of hot tap water into dry ingredients.  Increase speed to medium; beat 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bow with rubber spatula.  Beat in 1/2 cup flour or enough to make a thick batter; continue beating for 2 minutes, occasionally scraping bowl.  With spoon, stir in enough additional flour (about 1 3/4 cups) to make a soft dough.
  2.   Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about ten minutes. Cut dough in half, cover with towel; let stand 20 minutes.  Grease a large cookie sheet; sprinkle with cornmeal.
  3. With lightly floured rolling pin, roll ones dough half into 15 X 10 inch rectangle.  Starting with the 15-inch side, tightly roll dough, jelly-roll fashion; pinch seam to seal.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Place loaves seam side down on cookie sheet; taper ends.  Brush loaves with salad oil; cover loosely with plastic wrap. Refrigerate 2- 24 hours.  (Cold fermentation is all the rage in the artisan bread revolution these days, not new)
  4. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 425.  Meanwhile, remove loaves from refrigerator; uncover and let stand at room temperature 10 minutes.  With a sharp knife, cut 3 or 4  diagonal slashes on top of each loaf. Bake for 20 minutes.
  5.  Meanwhile, in a small bowl, with fork, beat egg white with 1 Tablespoon cold water.  Remove loaves from oven and brush with mixture; return to oven and bake 5 minutes or until golden.  Makes 2 loaves.
Use this recipe to make Italian Rolls, breadsticks, pizza crust.  Bread may be topped with seeds or salt as your taste guides you... adjusting baking time for size of rolls or sticks.  Do not lower the oven temperature.  Enjoy!


  1. Glad to see you! I remember making doughnuts once at your house and your Mom was not happy with our mess, but it was great fun, and I think she secretly like the doughnuts. :)

  2. I think we let the grease get to hot and the smoke was a little scary for her. But you are right, she did like the doughnuts! I love we share some memories of those days.