Friday, November 22, 2013

Giving Thanks


Last week I had a peppermint milkshake. (Well, part of one—I remembered that I don't especially like them.) And today I had my one gingerbread latte of the season. These once-a-year treats mean the holidays are fast approaching. I battled city traffic today to get a few errands done before and after I enjoyed lunch with a friend. It was so good to come home with almost everything crossed off my list.

Yesterday I baked the first bread of the season. It's important to eat a loaf from that first batch to make sure I still remember how to do it. Daddy-O had to try several slices before he declared it good. 

I've been taking home baked bread to our family Thanksgiving gathering since before I was married. That's a lot of years and a lot of bread. I am thankful for traditions. Although I have used other recipes, it is usually this one. This is about the easiest bread recipe I know. The hardest part is remembering to get the bread starter going a week or so before Thanksgiving.  If you start right now, you could have bread for your Thanksgiving table.

This basic recipe has been around forever, but years ago I tinkered with the original until I got it just like we like it. (The original had more sugar, more oil and more salt.) When I had a house full of folks to help eat this, I made it year 'round and kept my starter going for five years once. Now, I start baking just before Thanksgiving and sometime in February or March, I decide I'm done for the year. I will have made loaves for the church bake sale. I will have given loaves for gifts. We will have eaten enough bread— but rest assured, there will be several loaves in the freezer for later. 

SOURDOUGH BREAD (also known around here as MIMI BREAD)

¼ cup sugar
¼ cup oil
1 cup starter
1-1/2 tsp. salt
1-1/2 cups warm water
6 or more cups bread flour

  • Mix bread ingredients.  (I use a large wire whisk as I add the first 3 cups of flour, and switch to a heave spoon for the last 3 cups.) 
  • Place in large bowl sprayed with PAM.  Lightly spray dough with PAM.  Cover with plastic wrap.  Let stand at least 8 hours. (Sometimes mine has doubled faster than this.)
  • Punch down dough and knead on floured board about 10 times.  Divide into 3 parts.
  • Spray three 8-inch loaf pans with PAM.  Shape dough and place in pans.
  • Cover loosely with plastic wrap. 
  • Let stand and rise until pans are full, about 5 to 6 hours.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes, or until brown and bottom sounds hollow when tapped.

Whole wheat bread:  Use 2 cups whole wheat flour and 4 cups bread flour.

Remember that these rising times are all approximate. The rising time will depend on the temperature of your kitchen. And sometimes my starter is a little zingy-er than others. 

To feed starter:  Remove 1 cup for baking (or discard) and feed with 1/3 cup sugar, 3 tbsp. instant potatoes and 1 cup warm water.  Mix well and let stand 8-12 hours.  Then refrigerate.  Store in plastic container with slits cut in lid. 
Feed every 3-7 days.

To make starter:  Double the feeding recipe.  Put in a glass or plastic container, loosely covered.  Let set out for 4 days.  Then add one pack dry yeast.  Let stand another 24 hours.  Use 1 cup for the first batch or store in refrigerator for up to 10 days.


My favorite container for the starter is an empty Cool Whip bowl (the large size.) Use a sharp knife to cut an "X" in the lid. The lid is flexible plastic, not brittle, so it works just right. My best spot for letting the dough rise is on my kitchen counter with the under-cabinet lights turned on. The lights keep that spot a little warmer than the rest of my kitchen.

The wooden turkeys in my photo? My dad made those many, many years ago. I am thankful to have some of his handiwork to enjoy. Maybe that's why he made things. And why I make things. To leave a little piece of us for loved ones when we are gone. I have my great-grandmother's quilt. And my grandmother's paintings. And my mother's recipes. Something I can touch with my hands and remember. I am thankful.


3 comments:

  1. Happy Thanksgiving to you and all who gather with you. May it be a happy time for all. I enjoyed all the posts as I finally caught up. Lovely cowls and very cute baby hat.

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  2. I just wanted to tell you that I love checking in on your blog (saw it after Jessica linked it a while back) and I have your starter on my counter getting ready to make some bread for Emmy's teachers later this week. Wishing all of you a Merry Christmas!
    Beth (Hawley) from Youth choir/CCYM days of old

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    Replies
    1. Hi, Beth! I remember those good choir days, too. Hope your bread turns out well. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

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