Around Craig: Homemade goodness, coming hot from the oven

When I think of good smells, just-out-of-the-oven bread is near the top. As the weather gets colder, I love making bread, helping with making bread, thinking about making bread­—I think you get the picture.

Eating fresh, hot-out-of-the-oven bread, especially an end crust spread with butter, not margarine, is divine. I can get hungry for bread just thinking about it.

Typically our bread machine does the bulk of the work and we do work it, as evidenced by the fact that we are on our third bread machine. Jim loves to proof the yeast in a separate two-cup glass measuring container with warm water and the recipe’s sugar component. But to me, that just makes another item to wash. When I make it, warm water goes right into the machine pan, then the sugar and yeast follow. I might let the yeast work by drinking some coffee before adding the flour, salt and any extras, like part of a cooked potato or egg. After the machine has been set to the dough cycle and allowed to mix, it is checked for the proper consistency, adding more flour or liquid as needed.

After about an hour, the beep signals the end of the first rise. The kneaded ball is then dumped into a buttered bread pan, we like glass ones, and left to rise a second time. Typically, I put the bread in the oven which has been warmed to 170 degrees for the second rise.

When the dough has risen to nearly the desired height, it’s time to turn up the oven. We often just have the oven set at 350 to 375 degrees, checking it after 20 minutes. Several cookbooks I consulted while writing this article suggested higher temperatures and/or longer baking times. I have never checked the accuracy of my oven, so this might account for the difference.

Our first bread machine was purchased from Jack’s Hardware. Wow, how many years ago has that been? Our second one cost 10 dollars at a thrift store, after bread machines had lost their luster. Our current one was given to us by a friend handling an estate. Just this August, we were given another interesting looking model. It has been tucked in the cupboard as a replacement. I think we are set for life!

We are fussy about our ingredients. Save More carries the King Arthur line of flours. Their products are unbleached and never bromated. (Bromate is a dough conditioner that was banned in the United Kingdom in 1990 and in Canada in 1994.)

I buy my yeast in a compressed block and store it in the frig in an old mayonnaise jar. I have not found a local source for this, but maybe I have just not asked the right person.

No, don’t know my exact cost per loaf. But considering that many loaves cost $1.99 to $3.50, I estimate that I save over half of that.

Now, if you like to try bread making but don’t have a bread machine, I just started experimenting with recipes to fit that bill. When I typed “no knead bread recipe” into my browser’s search box, many interesting recipes came up. From Wikipedia comes this description, “No-knead bread is a method of bread baking that uses a very long fermentation time instead of kneading to form the gluten strands that give the bread its texture. It is characterized by a low yeast content and a very wet dough. Some recipes improve the quality of the crust by baking the bread in a Dutch oven or other covered vessel.”

I thought my no-knead loaf baked in our Dutch oven looked like one of those designer loaves that go for $5 to $8 in the city. Jim commented that it reminded him of sourdough bread, which he likes.

Can you tell I love baking, eating and livin’ in Craig?

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