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Friday, February 24, 2012

The Bread of Life: Homemade Bread in a Season of Fasting

Klaus Hopfner at de.wikipedia
Lent is about simplicity, penance, fasting, abstinence.  It is about recognizing our excesses, and righting them.  It is about getting down to the brass tacks of the needful.

The really interesting thing about all of this, is that no matter how hard we try to concentrate on redirecting our focus away from our own gratification, to pare down, to simplify.... God uses the results of our efforts to feed us, to build us up, to teach us…to bless us.  He’s God after all; it’s what he does.

Bread has been called the staff of life, used as a euphemism for money, and employed to represent the provision of basic needs ("putting bread on the table").  It is the basic staple of most cultures.  Bread is both simple and extravagant.  It is the proverbial basic nourishment, and yet, there is something deeply rewarding and nourishing about good homemade bread.   The process of kneading, the smell of bread baking, the sight of sweet butter melting into it…they touch us at our souls. 

Lent is a perfect time to set about baking this simple food.  If you are an accomplished baker, Lent is your time to shine.  If you have never baked bread before, you can do it.  Here is a simple, basic white bread recipe.  Give it a try; you’ll be surprised by how simple it is.

Basic White Bread

3/4 oz. (3 envelopes) active dry yeast
2 cups warm (110-115 degree water)
1 cup sugar
1/2 melted butter
1-1/2 Tsp. salt
2 eggs, beaten
7-3/4- to 8-1/4 cups bread flour (this is different from all purpose flour)

Dissolve yeast in warm water.  I put the water in a glass measuring cup and heat it in the microwave for 15 seconds or so.  Use a candy thermometer to check the temperature.  BUT...if that sounds to complicated, just use warm water.  Bread is pretty simple... Just do it.  =)

Add the sugar, butter, salt, and eggs.

Add about 4 cups of flour.  Stir (or beat in mixer) until smooth.  Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.  I just do in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon.  Flour is what makes bread heavy.  The more you add, the heavier it will be.  Try adding just enough until the flour you add stops being picked up by the dough as you stir.  I dump mine out on the table at this point and kneed in any remaining flour that had not been picked up by the dough.  Don't add more than 8-1/4 cups.

Turn onto floured surface.  Knead until smooth and elastic.  About 6-8 minutes.  Use a timer, that way you won't have to guess.  Place in buttered bowl.  (You don't have to use much.  The butter is just to keep it moist.)  Turn the dough inside the buttered bowl until it has a thin coat of butter all over.

At this point, I fill a large glass bowl with hot tap water and put it in the bottom of my oven.  Then I turn on the oven.  As soon as the flame kicks on, I count to 20, and then turn it right back off.

Cover the dough in the bowl loosely, and place in the oven with the heat off.  Let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.  Again, set a timer; don't stress about what it should look like...just give the process a try.

Take dough out and punch down.  (Make a fist and gently press in into the dough.  Air will escape.  Gently press the sides in.  You are preventing huge holes in the bread, from large air bubbles, by doing this.)  Divide the dough in half and shape two loaves.  (Roll the dough into about a 12X8 inch rectangle.  Then roll it into a big "tootsie roll".  Turn the ends under to seal the loaf.)  Place in greased 9X5 inch loaf pan.  Cover and let rise again for about 45 minutes....until doubled.

Bake, on center rack in oven,  at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.  "Done" bread will sound hollow when tapped on the top.  Remove from pans to wire racks and cool.

Once you have learned to make a loaf of basic white bread, you have the basic skills to move on to greater varieties of bread with even more wholesome ingredients.  When we make basic white bread, I usually throw a couple of tablespoons of flax seeds in the blender, blend them into a powder, and throw them in the mix, to add nutrients.
via Wikimedia Commons, uploaded by Tim1357
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Happy Baking!
I pray you are having a blessed and holy Lent.


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  1. I've been wanting to make homemade bread, and like you said, this is the perfect time to do it during the Lenten season. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Michelle,

    Thank you so much for sharing this post through the 40 Days of Seeking Him meme. We love to bake our own bread and even went to a co-op class about it with our homeschool group yesterday. There is something wonderful about knowing you can take a few basic items that God blessed us with and make something that satiates our hunger.

  3. I used to make whole wheat bread, from scratch, even ground my own wheat, yes there is nothing like it. (before my daughter had a wheat allergy)

    I never tied it to spirituality, I'll have to seriously think about trying to make some again, finding an alternative recipe.

    Thank you for sharing.

  4. Love, love making bread. Love the smell. And we all love eating it!!


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