Tuesday, July 18, 2023

The Only Bread Recipe You'll Ever Need

Back in the old days, home cooks didn't trouble themselves trying to make artisan breads.  Sure you can spend a fortune on pans, rising baskets, flours, enhancers, etc trying to bake loaves like the professional bakeries put out but I have to ask why?  Most artisan breads are entirely unsuited to the one thing we will most be doing with them, making sandwiches.  I have many vintage cookbooks in my collection now and while here and there you encounter a recipe for French bread, noticeably absent are the ciabatta breads, sourdoughs, challah  breads and other loaves that are outside of the purvue of most home bakers.  Instead is a more practical approach meant to be frugal not topple you off the fiscal cliff in a unforgiving quest for the proper crumb size.

To this end, vintage cookbooks deal with 4 basic breads always baked in a loaf pan, White Bread, Graham Bread, Total (Whole) Wheat Bread and Potato Bread.  Any one of these breads would be perfect for toast in the morning, sandwiches at lunch and even dinnertime.  You'll also be saving money sticking with the tried an true loaves.  To truly make a cost comparison I have to compare my bread to the local organic baker as we use the exact same ingredients.  His bread rings up at $4.50 a loaf while I can bake at home for $1.50 a loaf in ingredients and electricity.  "But it's only $3" you say; Well I use about a loaf a week and over the course of a year the savings is $156, quite substantial.  Double or even triple that for a full sized family and now you're saving serious money.

Bread was truly the staff of life in the old days, and this was especially true during the Great Depression.  Home bakers turned out 2-3 loaves of bread twice a week and bread was served with every meal.  This is a lesson we can learn even now as bread is inexpensive and fills the belly. 

Edit 07/18/2023: I have converted these recipes to metric weights and measures as I have discovered baking by weights contributes to a better outcome each time a loaf is made.

Basic White Bread (The Mother)

375g 00 Italian Flour (or all purpose)
225ml Warm Water
7g Yeast
28ml Oil or Melted Lard
13g Sugar
6g Salt

In a measuring cup mix together water and yeast and let sit until bubbly, about 10 minutes.  Sift together  flour, salt and sugar then add in yeast mixture.  Stir well then work with hands in bowl until it comes together.  Add in oil and knead with hands until dough cleans the bowl then transfer to a floured board.  Knead well until dough becomes smooth.  Form ball and place in oiled bowl, cover with towel and let rise until doubled.  Grease a bread pan and preheat oven to 350°.  Punch down dough and turn out onto floured surface.  If you want larger air pockets in the bread then form loaf immediately and place in pan, for a normal sandwich bread though you'll want to knead it a few minutes then form a loaf and place in pan.  Let it rise until it's even with top of pan then bake 30 minutes.  Cool on wire rack completely before cutting.  Store in plastic bag on counter, will last up to a week but is best if eaten within 3 days.

Graham Bread
188g All Purpose Flour
188g White Whole Wheat Flour

Follow the same measurements from above for oil, yeast, sugar, salt and water

Total (Whole) Wheat Bread
125g All Purpose Flour
250g Whole Wheat Flour

Mix yeast mixture with all purpose flour first before adding whole wheat flour.  Takes longer to rise than white bread.

Potato Bread
225 ml water from boiled potatoes warmed to 105 degrees

Follow the same measurements for the rest of the ingredients according to the white bread recipe.

The starch in the potato water makes this a real fast rising bread, it also makes for a moister crumb than with other loaves.  Perfect for sandwiches or toasting.

Yield for all recipes is 1 loaf. Double all ingredients except for yeast to make 2 loaves

1 comment:

  1. I just made the white bread, and it was wonderful! Thank you for sharing these recipes!


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