Monday, January 12, 2009
One of the great things about not having a lot of milk in the winter is that it makes me stretch my imagination and step outside my bread-making comfort zone. When we have lots of milk, I tend to make very similar breads from day to day. Most of them use milk as the liquid, and the only variation is whether or not I use any whole wheat, oatmeal, rye, or other whole grains. Once we're rationing milk, however, I get creative!
A couple days ago, I noticed a half-empty jar of spaghetti sauce in the frig, so I used that for the liquid in my bread. It was Newman's pesto marinara (or something like that). It was delicious! It's been a couple years since I've had Panera's tomato-basil bread, but it reminded me of that.
Here's the basic bread recipe that I use for my bread machine. I typically make the 1.5-pound loaf, although my machine will make up to a 2-pound loaf.
1 cup liquid (water, milk, orange juice, tomato juice, spaghetti sauce, etc.)
2 tablespoons fat (butter, olive oil, vegetable oil, etc.)
2 tablespoons sweetener (sugar or honey)
a hefty pinch of salt (probably a teaspoon)
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon yeast (regular yeast, because bread machine yeast has some unpronounceable things in it)
If you don't have a bread machine, just mix everything together and knead for 15 minutes. It's great for building upper body strength! Also, it's sad but true that a lot of people buy bread machines then never use them. That means you can usually pick up one at a garage sale for about $5. I used to see them all the time but never bought one because Pierre (my imaginary butler and chef) had been chugging along just fine for 16 years! Then one day, he refused to make bread anymore. I was really kicking myself for not getting any of those bread machines I'd seen at garage sales. So, I wound up paying full price for a new one. The next summer, I bought a bread machine at a garage sale, so I'm ready when this one breaks! It also allows me to make two loaves of bread at once when we have company coming.
This is the same recipe I use to make our homemade pizza dough for our Friday night pizza and movie. Use water as the liquid, and it's easier to spread on the pizza stone if it's all unbleached flour, rather than whole wheat.
And if you're wondering where Pierre came from . . . well, if you set your bread machine to have your bread ready first thing in the morning, and you have a programmable coffee pot that will have your coffee ready first thing in the morning, it's almost as good as having an invisible chef and butler to serve you breakfast the moment you wake up! For breakfast, I use orange juice as the liquid, and throw in some dried cranberries.