Nothing compares to a loaf of homemade bread

I have always thought it would be very rewarding to turn out a loaf of home baked bread now and then if it coulb be managed without spending too much time. At last I have found how to do it in "The New Book of Breads" by Dolores Casella ($9.95, David White, Inc.)

Dolores Casella makes clear that her intent is to utilize modern techniques and equipment so that it will be easy to make your own bread. Recipes are included for using a mixer, a food processor, for baking in microwave ovens and crockpots.

Bread making is not that difficult if you let Mrs. Casella lead the way. Start by baking a few loaves and giving them to others. This approach was suggested by a friend and I found that it is a great way to experiment.

Developing a feel for making bread comes rather quickly. After only a short time you will recognize when the yeast has been proofed and when the dough has been sufficiently kneaded. Developing a love for making bread comes rather quickly as well.

The recipe that follows is perhaps the most deliciously satisfying bread I have ever tasted. It is simple to make and stays moist for days. It is superb when toasted and spread with honey. Yogurt Granola Bread 1-1/2 cups lukewarm water 2 tablespoons honey or brown sugar 2 cakes yeast 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 1 cup plain yogurt 2 to 3 teaspoons salt 4 to 5 cups stirred and measured white or unbleached white flour 2 cups any type of granola, preferably with fruit and nuts in it

combine water, honey, and yeast. Set aside to proof for 5 to 8 minutes. When the yeast is ready, stir in the oil, yogurt, salt and 2 cups of the flour. Stir until thoroughly blended. Then add remaining flour, 1 cup at a time.

Add granola and stir until it has formed a medium soft dough. Rub the ball of dough all over with some oil, cover and let it rise until double in bulk.

When dough has double, punch it down an turn it our onto a very lightly floured surface. Knead lightly and then divide into 2 parts. Shape each into a loaf and place in a greased 8 inch loaf pan. Cover (I use the same wax paper) and let rise again until doubled and then bake in a preheated 375 dig F. oven 35 to 40 minutes, or until browned and done. Turn out onto racks to cool. This bread takes about 2 1/2 hours from start to finish.

Not all breads use yeast for leavening. This book includes many recipes that use baking powder and baking soda to achieve a similar result as yeast and produce a lovely raised loaf of tender bread. Quick breads can be put together easily, and bake in a very short time. This one gets its flavor from orange juice and its moistness from mashed potato. Orange Marmalade Nut Bread 1/2 cup butter or margarine 2 tablespoons vegetable shortening (or lard) 1 cup sugar 2 large eggs 3 tablespoons orange marmalade 1 small potato, cooked and mashed 1 cup orange juice 4 1/2 cups stirred and measured unbleached white or white Flour 4 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 cup chopped pecans, walnuts, or slivered almonds

Cream butter an shortening thoroughly. Gradually beat in sugar until mixture is light and fluffy. Add eggs, marmalade and mashed potato and mix well. Sift dry ingredients and add to beaten mixture alternately with orange juice. Stir 1 teaspoon of flour through the nuts and shake so any excess flour is discarded. Fold into batter and pour into 2 wellgreased 8-inch loaf pans.

Cover with foil and bake in a preheated 350 deg F oven for 20 minutes; remove foil and continue baking for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until crust is golden and bread tests done. Remove to racks and cool for 15 minutes, then turn out of pans and continue cooling. Makes 2 small loaves.

It look years for me to realize that pizza cannot be put in a box. what follows is an absolutely wonderful recipe for thincrusted pizza dough. This recipe makes enough dough for 2 pizzas, 1 for the freezer. Thin Crust Pizza Dough 1 package active dry yeast 1 1/2 cups lukewarm water 3 1/2 to 4 cups stirred and measured white or unbleached white flour 1 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil Additional oil and some cornmeal

Dissolve yeast in water and let it proof for 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in 3 cups of the flour, the salt, pepper, and oil. Beat until smooth. Add remaining flour gradually until you have a firm dough. Knead dough lightly and place in an oiled bowl. Turn the dough so the surface is oiled all over. Cover and let rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

When doubled in bulk, punch down and cut in 2. Place each part on an oiled and cornmeal sprinkled 12 inch pizza pan. Let dough rest for 10 minutes and then spread it out so that it covers the pan. Make pizza sauce according to your favorite recipe and bake immediately in a preheated 500 deg F oven until the crust is crisp and done, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Mrs. Casella points out that the single most important thing to remember is that bread baking is extremely flexible and it should be interesting and fun. You can experiment with different flours or grains or with other added ingredients such as cheese or cooked sausage. Keep in mind that any bread may be frozen once it has been baked and cooled.

Bread may be allowed to rise wherever it is warm. If your home is 65 deg try wrapping the bowl with a heating pad. I put my loaves in the gas oven and turn it on the low setting for a few minutes, then turn it off, wait 15 minutes or so and repeat. This seems to work for me.

Once your loaves have risen each additional rising will be accomplished more quickly than the first.

If dough is too sticky to handle add more flour. If it is too dry add more liquid. I find rubbing the surface of wax paper with oil and placing the paper oiled side down on the surface of the dough when rising allows the dough to expand freely and keeps the surface smooth.

Brushing the surface of your bread with beaten egg before baking adds color and flavor. Brushing after baking with melted butter produces a lovely golden glaze and makes for wonderful crust. And finally brushing your pans with butter as opposed to oil will prevent sticking. Enjoy.

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