Ok, so I have to post my bread recipe as my first published recipe. The story here starts with my Grandma. She was a woman wit a strong personality and opinions to match; when she would visit if someone said something she didn’t like, she would hum. She had five daughters including my mom and those five daughters had eight daughters all together and somehow in this family full of women, she was the only woman in my life who loved to bake as much as I do.
When I was about 14 she came to my house for a visit and when she visited, she often baked. She was a very good baker and my whole life I wanted to know how to make bread; real country fresh bread. I asked my Grandma if she would show me and I could tell she was happy to have someone to pass along her skills to. She showed me how to make bread, she detailed the importance of water temperature and the kneading technique and how long to knead. I remember watching her knead the bread and being so envious at how effortless it looked. It looked like she had been doing that forever, and I wanted my hands to look that way when I kneaded the bread. She went out one day when I was at school and bought me a huge stainless steel bowl of my own (which I still have and use all the time). We made bread a few times during that visit and before she died she left me her cookbook full of magazine clip outs of recipes and handwritten recipes she created over the years as well as a nice inscription. I have loved baking bread ever since, I love that my kids will be reminded of home anywhere that smells like fresh bread and I love that I have that connection with my Grandma who hit me on the bum with wooden spoons and hummed a lot. This recipe is not my Grandma’s but it is the recipe I use to make bread for my family at least once per week.
I found out after my Grandma left that baking bread is much more of an art than a recipe, you have to get your own technique, learn what to look for in the dough and make it your own. So this recipe, while it’s very good, don’t be discouraged if you try it and fail, or if it’s not perfection. The love of food comes from the process not just the success.
Makes about 36 dinner buns (2.5oz each) or 3 regular loaves (1 ½ lbs each)
2 Cups warm water (105-110F degrees)
½ cup warm milk
4 1/2 tsp. yeast
3 tbsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp. salt (kosher)
1/2 cup olive oil
3 Tbsp lemon juice
7-8cups AP Flour
Put the yeast, sugar and water and milk together in a bowl until it starts to bubble (5 mins). Add the eggs, olive oil and lemon juice flour (add 7 cups at first and the remainder if needed) and salt into a stand mixer with the hook attachment and mix all ingredients together until it forms a dough that comes away from the sides of the bowl. Knead the dough with the hook or by hand for 5-10 minutes, the dough should be very pliable but not sticky. Rise for 1.5 hours on an oiled bowl, then turn out and shape into buns or loaves and rise covered with tea towels for another 1.5 to 2 hours.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven until golden, approx 25 to 30 minutes for a large loaf or 20 minutes for buns. Turn out onto a rack to cool. Enjoy!
To make Cheese buns roll 1.5lbs of dough out on a flat surface making a rectangle that is approx 18” long and 10” high. Spread 2 cups shredded cheese (any kind of sharp cheese) over the entire surface and then roll the dough towards you like making cinnamon buns. Cut the spiral buns out at approx. 1.5 – 2” thick and then place on a greased cookie sheet. Press the bun flat and allow tor ise for 1.5 to 2 hours. Bake as above.
To make focaccia add 2 tsp garlic powder, 2 tsp onion powder, 1 tsp. each of dry thyme, oregano, basil and rosemary into the dough. Let rest for 5 minutes and then roll out into a rectangle and place on an oiled cookie sheet. Follow above cooking instructions and brush with olive oil and parmesean cheese and place under broiler just to brown cheese (30 seconds or so, watch very carefully).