July 18, 2011

Coming Home

One of the hardest adjustments I had to make as a new mom was to the whole not cooking and baking thing. What? I don't have time to cook anymore?

I was very used to making dinner for Chris and I almost every night (although I will admit there at the end we ate quite a bit of Abbay's Chicken Fried Steak because it was the only thing that I wanted!) and I baked most of our bread; oftentimes it would take us almost three weeks to go through one loaf of store bought bread. It was like total shock for me to not be able to cook and bake. In the past 17 weeks I have used store bought pizza crust 3 times AND a jar of store bought pizza sauce AND bought a thing of frozen Texas toast. That's not to say that using store bought is bad, I just prefer to make my own! Lately, I've been getting the itch to once again create food from scratch.

Anyway, yesterday I made bread again for the first time since Evie was born! This is our favorite bread recipe -- it makes a spectacular sandwich (a big one, the slices are thick so you need plenty of fillings to stand up to the bread), fantastic toast, even better French toast, makes one heck of a grilled cheese and is great as a stand alone snack. Mmmm. I'm getting hungry just thinking about it! Anyway, here is my mom's recipe for Cool Rise Bread -- oh and the best thing is that it makes two loaves so there is always one to give away! And I ADORE giving away my baked goods!

Cool Rise Bread

5-6 Cups of all purpose or bread flour
2 packets of yeast (not rapid rise) OR 4 1/2 tsp of yeast (if you have a jar like me)
1/2 cup of granulated sugar
1/2 tsp of salt
1 stick of butter softened
2 eggs at room temperature
1 1/2 cups VERY hot tap water
Oil (vegetable or canola -- not olive)

1) In a large mixing bowl combine 2 cups of flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Whisk together.

2) All at once, add butter, eggs and hot water. Using an electric mixer, beat on medium speed for about two minutes.

3) Using a wooden spoon to stir, add enough flour into the batter so that it forms a dough that just leaves the side of bowl.

4) Dump dough onto a well floured surface. Continue to knead in as much of the remaing flour until the dough is soft and smooth and no longer sticks to your hands. This should take at least 5 minutes and no longer than 10. I usually reach this stage at about 7-8 minutes of kneading.

5) Divide dough into two balls, and coat with the oil (don't be stingy with the oil!) Put the oil covered dough into two bowls, cover with saran wrap, and then cover with a hot damp towel. Allow to rise for 20 minutes.

6) After 20 minutes punch dough down and shape into loaves (I do this by making each dough ball into a roughly rectangular shape then fold the two long ends in to the middle and repeat with the short ends) place into well oiled bread pans.

7) Re-cover loaves with saran wrap and a warm damp towel. Place in refrigerator and allow to rise for at least 2 and no longer than 24 hours.

8) Remove and let stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Preheat your oven to 350F. Bake loaves for 45-55 minutes. Once tops are golden brown they are done.

9) Remove and while still warm brush tops with melted butter OR save the time and just rub them all over with a stick of butter!

IF you can stand the anticipation -- wait for bread to cool, then slice and enjoy, however, I can never wait and I must eat a slice of this bread warm from the oven slathered with real butter! mmmm! Good!

Making this bread is a little bit like coming home for me. I learned from my momma how to make it, and she makes it each Christmas and Thanksgiving. It even smells and tastes like home. I am looking forward to the day I get to teach Evie how to bake bread. I'm sure we will emerge from the kitchen covered from head to toe in flour and she will get to experience the joy of watching simple ingredients turn into mmmm's and ahhh's as eyes roll heavenward in appreciation of something she made -- and one day she will make bread all on her own and it'll be like coming home.