You guys, I love baking just about anything, but my absolute favorite is bread. It’s my biggest challenge, except pie crust. I have had more bread failures than any other in the kitchen. I don’t mind, because I’m lucky enough to be married to Steve. He’ll eat, and enjoy, just about anything I make. Seriously. He happily ate the tofu loaf I made on Monday. The one with the burnt to a crisp ketchup topping, that was still totally mushy in the middle. He ate it while I wasn’t home and texted me to tell me how good supper was. This makes all my cooking experiments much safer, since food rarely goes to waste.
The recipe below is my variation on the Slovak Bread recipe that can be found in an ancient cookbook published by St. Stephens Catholic Church in Johnstown, PA. The cookbook is old, probably 25 or 30 years old. My version here is a very close adaptation of the original.
2 cups warm water
1/4 cup flax meal
3 tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
4-5 cups white flour
1. Whisk the water, yeast, sugar, salt, and flax together in a large bowl (I use the bowl from my KitchenAid Mixer). Let this mixture stand for about 5 minutes, until foamy. This is called proofing the yeast. It will look like this:
|Your proofed yeast will look like this.|
3. Turn the ball of dough out onto a clean, floured surface and knead for at least 5 minutes. If you’ve never kneaded bread before, take a look at this short video for a demonstration. You want the dough to be elastic, but still firm. If the dough is sticky, add more flour to your kneading surface, so it will incorporate in as you work the dough. When the dough has reached a smooth, elastic, firm quality and it is no longer sticky/taking in more flour as you knead, place it in a large bowl and cover with a thin, clean kitchen towel.
|This time around, my kneaded dough looked like this. Yours (and mine typically) will be smoother looking, but I was a little heavy on the flour, as I mentioned above.|
|I used a different bowl for raising the dough, because I needed my KitchenAid bowl for a batch of cookies I was making at the same time.|
|Again, this was kind of a wonky batch of dough, so my loaves weren’t particularly beautiful, or smooth.|
6. Place the loaves back in that draft-free warm spot and cover again with the thin towel. Allow to rise until about doubled in size once more. Depending on your dough and the conditions in your kitchen, this can take anywhere from 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours or so. Here are my risen loaves:
|Only 5 cups of flour means loaves that are a bit on the smaller side.|
7. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. The first couple times you’ll probably wait until the loaves are risen, before preheating. Once you get the hang of things, you’ll know roughly when to turn the oven on, before the loaves are completely ready for the oven. Place the loaves into the preheated oven and bake for 27-32 minutes. Baking time depends on size of the loaves, how well they rose, and how wet the dough was. You’ll know your bread is done when it’s golden brown on top, sounds hollow when you tap the top, and the bread is pulling away from the sides of the loaf pans.