15 December 2009


I've been tinkering with bread baking lately. No two batches are the same, because there are so many variables that come into play. The temperature of the room {during the risings}, the humidity, the weather outside, and then there is the actual bread itself. Since I never really measure things, my bread is probably more variable than most. But perhaps not, as most folks who bake bread tend to use similar methods, that is they go more by feel of texture and elasticity of the dough. Sometimes the yeast is very active, due to the room's characteristics {even the air flow makes a difference}. Since I love the adventure of bread baking, these differences thrill me!

I've been hankering peanut butter ribbon bread that I made last year {or the year before, time is taffy}. It was just regular {flour, butter, yeast, water, a bit of salt, and some sugar} bread, with some peanut~butter kneaded into the last rising, just before it goes into the loaf~pans. Really good with bananas! {i LOVE peanut~butter and naner sandwiches *grins*}

SO this time, I decided to substitute the peanut~butter into the batch in place of the initial butter into the sponge. The sponge is a slurry~like mixture that you start with. First, you pour a quart of hot water over a stick of butter. Then you mix in about two tablespoons of salt and a fourth of a cup of sugar. And three cups of flour. This is a thicker liquid. This is the base of the sponge.

In the meantime, you mix a smaller quantity of warm water and two tablespoons of yeast together in a glass dish. After you've prepared the slurry above, you should be able to see whether the yeast has indeed been active. You should see lil bubbles forming on the surface of the yeasted water. Also, there is a smell that is very particular to activated yeast. If this is the case, that is your "proof". If not, then you merely need to proof another small bowl of yeast in water rather than throw out the entire sponge you'd have made.

If indeed you've good proof, you add that to the slurry and that is your sponge! Take your time, don't rush anything. Do this by feel. Good bread does not result when you are feeling pressured and harried. Even if you are not too sure of things, don't worry, bread forgives lil differences by still being BREAD.

Once you've added the yeast into the butter/water/salt/sugar mix {the proof has been added to the sponge}, then you add about five pounds flour. If you do this cup by cup, and mix, you will notice the texture changes from a slurry, to a batter, to a dough. Eventually, the dough will be a bit drier than wetter, and when you see that it will hold its form rather than spread formlessly, dump it out of the bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Let it rest.

You've been working it pretty hard. It's exhausted. You need to let it rest.

While its resting, wash out your bowl. Dry it thoroughly. Then coat it thickly with butter or shortening. After a short time kneading the dough, just so that you can make sure all the flour and yeast are spread evenly throughout the dough; place the dough in the bowl, and set in a warm spot, cover it with a clean towel. And let it do its thing.

It should rise to about half again its orginal mass. Punch it down, flip the ball of dough in the bowl so that the bottom of the dough is now the top, and cover it again. Let it rise, then dump it out on a lightly floured surface.

Knead it to let the gas escape, while reactivating the yeast. Cut it into loaves, and then knead and shape each individual loaf. Place the loaf of dough into a pan that has been greased. Cover and let it rise for a final time.

Then let it bake at 350~ish. It will rise for a certain extent until the heat of the oven kills the yeast. So be sure to leave some amount above the pan so that there is enough room for the dough to expand. After awhile, check it. If it seems done, firm to the touch, nicely browned; take it out and flip if from the pan. Knock the bottom. If the bread remains firm with a nice hollow sound, then let it cool. If not, then place the loaf back in the oven {you can set the bread directly on the rack}.

I know I skipped lots of detail. But that's basically it! Nice, warm yummy bread!

Oh, wait...I forgot that I was actually telling you about today before I segued into details about bread baking in general! Sillee mee.

Ok, so I used the peanut butter instead of the butter in the sponge. Right from the start all that peanut buttery goodness was distributed and incorporated into the dough and was there thru all the risings and just got better and better. sigh.

I just finished bagging up 18 loaves. Yea!! Tomorrow, I will drop some off for my counselor and thru her, the fellow at her church that helped me last year with some financial difficulties when my car repairs were more than my month's income. I call him Mr. Anonymous, and I continue to appreciate his assistance last year cuz it made a difference to me then, and to me now. He helps many folks in that way, and it boggles my mind that folks accept the help but don't extend a thank~you in return. I know that because last year, I took a plate of cookies to my counselor and gave it to her with a thank~you card for Mr Anonymous because I figured that she knew to ask him, so she'd be able to pass on the gift. Mr Anonymous said that I was the only person to ever thank him in all the years he's been doing that! So this year, I remember how much that made me want to thank him again.

So if you too want some peanut butter bread, just let me know! *wink*

{Kathy, thank you for the wedding gift. Jerry was so excited yesterday that when I walked in the door after my bookgroup, he was all "look what Kathy sent, look what Kathy sent" about the box. So I opened the box and took out the gift still wrapped and let him open that. And we both wanted to thank you very much!}

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