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Bread Making

By Lisa Doran N.D, Posted June 2007.

My own childhood is filled with memories of my mother making bread. She used to make bread about 2 times a week for our family and for my mother it was something she did in the very early morning usually, when the house was quiet. I see it now as an almost meditative experience for her. For a child bread making is a wonderful sensory experience. Putting on the special bread making apron, getting out the special big bowl that is only used for bread making, the big wooden spoon and that special tea towel we use to cover the rising dough - always the same little ritual around preparing for breadmaking. The smell of the yeast, the stickiness of the dough, being allowed to help out and knead the dough. The anticipation as it rises. The increadible smell as it bakes. And the extra treat of that first slice hot out of the oven.

Home baked bread fresh from the oven is something my children will always eat and so I try to make it as nutrient dense as possible. I will use whey liquid when I have it, which is a by-product from our own cheese making - to replace the water for extra protein. I will try and always use home made butter, unpasteurized honey and mineral rich Celtic sea salt that is still a brownish colour because if its dense mineral content. For flour I'll use kamut or spelt or freshly ground organic whole wheat - to get the most vitamins as I can in the loaf of bread (happily my family does not seem to suffer ill effects from freshly ground organic whole wheat flour). However, this recipe will work for straight bleached, white all purpose flour as well - but will not be as nutrient dense.

I'll also add all kinds of things to increase the nutritive value - choose only one or perhaps two of these options for a batch of bread, as choosing too many will overpower the bread. You can use flax seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, or you can use sprouted seeds of any variety (my favourite is pumpkin, sunflower and flax combined) which have been soaked over night so that they start to break open and sprout - again adding a vitamin packed addition. I'll add raisins or molasses to increase the iron content. Nuts can be added if they are chopped very small or ground into flour - I'll often use small walnut pieces or ground almonds. For each of these additions you only need 2-4 tbsp to add to the bread recipe. If I have fresh herbs they can be added for flavour - garlic and thyme is lovely - you can experiment if you have a small herb garden and find the combination that works best for you.

By creating delicious bread that is a family favourite and is a densely nutritious bread you can guarantee that your children are getting all the protein, vitamins and minerals that they need with a very simple and healthy meal of bread and soup.

My Bread recipe is as follows:

1 ½ cup hot water
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp Celtic sea salt

Mix together in a medium sized bowl with a wooden spoon so that the butter melts and the honey dissolves

4 tsp yeast (or one packet of the prepackaged yeast)
½ cup warm water

- mix together in a small bowl with a wooden spoon and allow the yeast to dissolve in the bowl - try not to have the yeast all clump up in one lump, it's not a tragedy if it does but it's better form if it does. When the yeast is dissolved add to the medium sized bowl in the first step and mix the entire group of wet ingredients together and let sit in a warm place for about 5 minutes to allow the yeast to start to work. It will bubble and foam and create the surface of the mixture to rise up.

6 cups flour

- I use 2 large bowls or a small wash tub and a large bowl for this next step. First, we want to grease one of the large bowls. Use just a tiny bit of olive oil in one of the large bowls and use your fingers to make sure that the entire bowl has had olive oil rubbed on it. The other bowl or wash tub will be your kneading bowl. First I add 3 cups of flour to the kneading bowl, then all my wet ingredients. I stir this with a wooden spoon until I have mixed all the dry ingredients with the wet. Then I slowly add the next 3 cups of flour, making sure each addition is well mixed in before I add more, until my bread dough is very stiff and difficult to stir. I will then knead my dough either straight in the bowl or the washtub (which makes clean up very easy) or on the counter top which has been sprinkled with flour.

Kneading dough is very simply the pulling of the edges of the dough toward the center with the fingers and then the pushing down in the middle of the dough with the heels of the hands. You will need to use a very stable surface for this - as it's hard work and the pushing and pulling is often very vigorous! A rickety table or surface is probably not the best choice for bread making. Kneading usually takes 7-10 minutes. It will vary depending on your ingredients. You will know you are finished kneading when your dough feels like sweaty palms. Children love this stage. If my 3 year old is by my side (as he always is) as I make my bread I'll give him a small lump of dough to knead and make his own loaf. If my 10 year old is around he loves to tackle the whole project.

When your dough is finished kneading we are going to place it into the greased bowl for the first rising. Simply plunk your ball of dough round side down into the greased bowl, swirl it around for a moment to coat that side in olive oil and then flip it over so the ungreased side is now the bottom. Cover with a clean, dry tea towel and set in a warm part of your kitchen to rise.

The first rising takes about 45 minutes - it make take 60 minutes if you've added heavy ingredients like sprouted seeds (sprouted seeds seem to produce a bread that doesn't rise as well as other breads, but is still delicious and nutrient dense). After the 45 minutes lift off the tea towel. You will notice that your bread has increased in bulk. You can punch down the bread right in the bowl at this point - and punching the bread down is really what it sounds like. Use your fist to push the dough down and get rid of some of the air bubbles from rising.

This recipe makes 2 loaves, so at this point I will usually grease two bread tins, or if I'm making a free form round loaf I will grease a couple of cookie sheets. Divide the dough in half and knead each loaf briefly - mostly to get out any air bubbles trapped inside the loaf - maybe for two minutes.

This is the point where, if your children want to get creative with the bread that you can create bread sculptures - bread dragons seem to be a favourite in my house - I'm sure your children can think of other ideas as well. Parents can also get creative at this stage as well. You can divide the amount of dough for one loaf into three sections, roll them so they are long and ropey and then braid them, or create a round loaf like calbrease bread. If you are using pans this is the point where you place your bread into your lightly greased pans or if you are making a free form loaf then shape it and place it on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

You can score the top of the bread if you wish for a decorative effect. Generally three short slashes with a knife on the top of a loaf of bread is nice. Then we cover the bread in the tins with a clean dry tea towel and let them rise for the second time. This will take another 45-60 minutes. Heat your oven up to 400°F now so that the temperature in the oven is even when you put your bread in the oven.

Once the bread has finished rising the second time then it can simply be placed directly in the hot oven - careful not to bump or bang it as this will often cause your bread to "fall" and all the nice rising of the past hour to diminish.

The bread should be baked for 15-25 minutes or until when tapped on the surface it sounds hollow. Bread should be a nice brown colour. Remove bread from pans immediately to cool on cooling racks - otherwise the bread could stick to the pan as it cools.

Nothing smells or tastes better than homemade bread right out of the oven smothered with butter and strawberry jam. Yum.

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