Monday, March 29, 2010

Best. Bread. Book. Ever.

Many, many years ago, before the age of bread machines and tangerine kitchen aids, my mom gave me this awesome little cookbook.

Sometime, somehow, it disappeared. I’m not sure how or when, but I can guarantee you Dean’s heart was not broken by the knowledge that there was one less food-splattered, page-sticking cookbook on the shelf defiling the pristine and glossy pages of his own collection. Until now, that is. Leslie recently discovered this little gem in the collection of cookbooks my dad gave her after my mom died. I’m not sure why Dad didn’t even want to attempt to bake his own bread…..he’s never said…but I suspect there was a flash of lightening one night and he heard, “Jerry, remember the dishwasher episode? Give the cookbooks to somebody who knows what they’re doing….” Anyway, this beauty was already broken in with its own share of stains and margin notes and fit right in with my own collection of dog-eared, and food-splattered cookbooks. (I’m thinking of giving Dean cookbook therapy for Christmas this year). Every recipe I have baked from this cookbook has resulted in sighs of contentment and pleasure when I eat it. Now all I need is to find another copy at a garage sale or thrift store, so when the food stains I add conceal the ingredients and instructions, I will be able to pull out my spare.

Without further ado….one of the many luscious (to quote my mom) bread recipes I have tried.

Cracked Wheat Bread (makes 2 loaves)

4 ¾ to 5 ¾ cups unsifted flour
3 tablespoons sugar
4 teaspoons salt
2 packages Active Dry Yeast
1 ½ cups water
½ cup milk
3 tablespoons margarine
1 cup cracked wheat

If you have, or can find, cracked wheat, the rest is simple. If not the following may apply:

First of all, sigh and look sad when you discover that you don’t have cracked wheat and you really, really want to bake this bread. Now. When your spouse/fiancé/significant other pulls out a container of bulgur wheat and announces that “this is the same thing as cracked wheat!”, point out that the bulgur wheat is not cracked and you don’t feel that the recipe was named “cracked wheat bread” because of the resulting cracked teeth those hard bulgur pellets would produce.

Allow for the extra time it will take for your spouse/fiancé/significant other to drag up the laptop, plug it in, login and then Google to prove to you that the bulgur wheat you have in the cupboard is the same thing as the cracked wheat called for in the recipe.

Give yourself time, lots of time, to gloat when your spouse/fiancé/significant other discovers the bulgur wheat will not crack, grind, or break up whether he tries the little food processor or the caveman tool that’s kept (and you all wish you had--come on admit it) on your kitchen counter.

Save the day by soaking the uncracked bulgur wheat in the milk mixture to soften it. Try not to gloat. Continue on with the recipe.

In a large bowl thoroughly mix 2 cups flour, sugar, salt, and undissolved yeast.

Combine water, milk, and margarine in a saucepan. Heat over low heat until liquids are very warm (120-130 degrees F). Margarine does not need to melt. Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed of electric mixer, scraping bowl occasionally. Add cracked (or soaked bulgur) wheat and beat at high speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in enough additional flour to make a soft dough. Turn out onto lightly floured board; knead until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. (This isn’t part of the recipe, but I always use plastic wrap to keep the dough from drying out here in the land of no rain.)

Punch dough down. Turn out onto lightly floured board. Cover; let rest on board 15 minutes. Divide dough in half. Roll each half to a 12 x 8-inch rectangle. Shape into loaves. Place in 2 greased 8 ½ x 4 ½ x 2 ½-inch loaf pans. Cover; let rise in warm place, free from draft, until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Bake at 400 degrees F. about 30 minutes, or until done. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

Your bread will look like this.



Deb said...

Send a loaf this way - its so much easier for me to enjoy - lolol....

Jerry said...

You should have more respect for your ELDERLY father,