I had a great time last night! The rescheduled bread class from two weeks ago (aka tornado night) was a blast. Pat and Helen Kelley welcomed us to their bakery-beside-their-home, out in the country sort of, at the end of a cul de sac on lovely wooded land. We mixed whole wheat bread and learned how to make bread dough rise fast. The rising process itself is called “proofing” for all us newbies. Anyway, to make your bread dough rise faster than the normal 2-3 hour process this is what you do: turn your oven on (the default setting on mine is 350, Pat said that was okay) for about 5 minutes with a glass pan of hot water on the bottom shelf. Turn it off and put your dough in for its first rise. About 1 hour. And where is the speed, you say? Most breads have to rise at least 1 hour. Be patient! After the hour in the oven. Take it out, knead it down and divide into loaves. Then return to the still warm oven for 12 minutes. Viola! ready to bake! (Help me out here, Tricia. The oven has not been warmed back up at this point, has it? I got a little confused during his explanation.)
Another tip: spritzing your loaves with a little water during the baking process will give you a nice hard crust.
Lightly score the top of the loaf before baking to allow for expansion in case all the air bubbles didn’t get kneaded out.
When flouring your surface for kneading, use bread flour, not whole wheat, to avoid a sticky mess. Even whole wheat bread recipes need a little unbleached white bread flour to assure that all the wheat grains get mixed up well.
When using a mixer, mix until the dough balls up and the sides of the mixer bowl are clean.
Pat had premixed some sweet breakfast bread dough, full of fruit for us to knead and make into loaves. Those baked while we made the whole wheat bread. He also baked his famous orange-cranberry scones and we all indulged. (Yes, the one I took for my husband actually made it into his hands. I did not devour it on the way home.)
Pat explained why he does not slice the breads that he sells at the local farmers’ market. “Bread and air are not friends.” Air dries out the bread and can introduce bacteria, etc. which quickens spoilage. Just buy a good bread knife and slice as you need it. Keep freshly baked bread wrapped in plastic in the fridge and it should last a while. Now I know why the “other” bread I’ve been buying tends to get stiff and can spoil quickly.
I have been putting off buying a grain mill until this class to see if I would actually enjoy the process. So, today I will be shopping online for a good grain mill (i.e. affordable and hopefully somewhat durable). It would be nice if I could find a hand operated mill locally, but I’ve learned that even in a city as big as OKC, LOTS of things are not to be found. I can’t even find a yogurt machine!
Speaking of buying locally. Lately I have been buying more and more of our weekly food supply from local providers. I buy my eggs either from the Co-op or a local grower; I will now be buying my bread from Pat (worth the drive all the down into the city!). That same farmers’ market has awesome fresh lettuce, eggs there, too. You can even buy buffalo and lamb. I buy my meat from the Co-op and even some health and beauty products. I have started making my own laundry detergent (which reminds me, I need to go by Ace Hardware and buy a case of Fels Naphtha). The more food I can grow or buy from a local producer not only makes my family healthier, but I am supporting LOCAL economy. And in the light of the mess of our national economy, I would much rather be giving my money to my neighbor in exchange for my daily bread than Wal-Mart. If you live in Oklahoma, you HAVE to check out the Oklahoma Food Co-op. I buy wheat in bulk that I can grind for my flour for the bread I just learned to bake. It has a statewide distribution system that is growing all the time.
How do you eat locally? Its really easy if you just do a little research. Even if you live in an apartment, you can grow veges in containers outside your door. Find a local community garden. You may even have to start one, but what better way to get to know your neighbors. Find a local farmers market or start one! Its all about community. Its all about healthier eating. Its all about the freedom to take back our food system from the big corporate giants who have manipulated crops into fast-growing, chemical laden, cancer causing, nutrition-less glob. Its about security in the face of a very possibly dismal food future.
Okay, enough soapboxing for now. Grind flour, bake bread! Free the world from food tryrany! Somebody stop me 🙂 ….
Keep it simple.