I was introduced to the delights of a freshly baked loaf of bread early in life. It’s kind of an expectation considering my upbringing, I guess.
I loved it so much that, for years, I was terrified to make it myself. I love cooking because you can improvise. I like baking, but I don’t love it – because you’re really not supposed to improvise.
That is, until I asked my mom for her bread recipe.
Not surprisingly, it has hippie commune roots – Tassajara published a bread book, of which my mom has an old, battered copy. It suits me to a “T.” Why? Because you can improvise. My mom likes to make it as white bread; I make it as a wheat bread.
I made it a number of times while I lived in the States. A few weeks ago, I decided to tackle it in Nairobi. I had no idea whether it would work. It did. Better than any other time I’ve made it.
Must be the altitude. Or something. Whatever it was, it was a little taste of home.
Makes 4 loaves
1. Make a sponge with 6 C lukewarm water, 2 T yeast, 1/2-3/4 C sweetener (honey, molasses or sugar etc.), 2 C dry milk (optional; I’ve never used), 7-9 C flour (from all white to all whole wheat).
2. Cover bowl and let rise 60 minutes or until it looks quite light.
3. Fold in 2 1/2 T salt, 1/2-1 C oil, (or butter or margarine – or what I use: applesauce), 6-8 C flour (white, wheat or mixture; I substitute about 2 C of flour with oats, flax seeds, wheat germ, cracked wheat, etc.) until it comes away from sides of bowl.
4. Knead until smooth, put back in greased bowl, cover, let rise for about an hour or more (should be doubled in size).
5. Punch down and let rise again.
5. Shape into loaves and place in greased loaf pans.
6. Let rise at least 45 minutes.
7. Bake at 350 F/176 C for one hour. The bread is done when you turn it upside down and it sounds hollow when you tap it.
8. Remove loaves from pans and let them cool before slicing or storing.