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Sunday, January 6, 2019

Just Because Sometimes White Breads are Delicious

I know I have been all about whole grains and seeds, and particularly in breads. But, you know, sometimes there are some old recipes that just taste so terribly good. How could I let them slip away? I really cannot. And so, I am revisiting some oldies that I have been making for at least 20+ years. Not all the time. But just - sometimes. And these two recipes are so marvelous. And so different.

One of the breads is fantastic due to all the added flavors. The other is fantastic for just the opposite reason; no particular flavors added, so it is so great with highly flavored foods. Think spaghetti or lasagna, maybe? 

The first bread is one I started making, with my own changes, since I read it in one of the booklets that came with my very first DAK Bread Machine, way back in the '90s. I loved the result, though I had a hard time ever getting the breads to bake properly inside the bread maker, so instead I would let the kneading happen and then turn out and finish it by hand and bake in the oven. Later on, after reading the ingredients in the packet of onion soup mix, I opted to create my own recipe for a Dry Onion Soup Mix. The bread is so jam-packed with flavor with all the herbs and the dry onion soup that it is wonderful all on its own, but it makes some truly great sandwiches, also.
Herbed Onion Loaf
Herbed Onion Loaf

Herbed Onion Loaf

Makes 2 loaves

Herbed Onion Loaf
Herbed Onion Loaf
¼ cup water
¾ cup cottage cheese
¾ cup sour cream
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 envelope dry onion soup mix, or use one recipe of my Dry Onion Soup Mix
1½ tablespoons unsalted butter
3⅓ cups bread flour
1 packet "instant" or "quick-rise" yeast
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons gluten, optional
1 large egg
2 - 3 tablespoons finely minced fresh herbs (such as dillweed, rosemary and/or thyme)

Mix together the water, cottage cheese, sour cream, sugar, dry onion soup mix and butter and bring to lukewarm, either in a saucepan on the stove or in the microwave. Do not over-heat. Pour this mixture into the bowl of a heavy duty mixer with bread hook. If making by hand, pour into a large bowl.

Separately, whisk together in another bowl the bread flour, yeast, soda and gluten, if using, along with the fresh minced herbs. Pour these dry ingredients into the bowl with the wet ingredients and begin mixing together slowly. If by hand, you might start with a spoon, then switch to hands to knead. Add in the egg and mix well. Knead by machine for about 8 minutes. If kneading by hand, knead for 10 to 12 minutes. If the dough starts to climb up the dough hook, or if it is very dense and hard when kneading by hand, dribble in a little water, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough becomes soft, a bit tacky but not sticky. If the dough is too wet, add in a little flour, 2 tablespoons at a time, until the dough comes together, smooth, a bit tacky but not sticky. 

Grease another bowl and gather the dough together into a neat ball and place into the bowl, turning once to grease all sides. Cover with a towel or plastic film and set aside to rise to about doubled in size.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal sized balls. Roll up each ball into a loaf shape and set into two greased loaf pans or roll them out into more elongated loaves and set onto a parchment lined baking sheet, set well apart (or onto two smaller parchment lined sheets). If making dinner rolls, divide each half of the dough into 12 pieces and roll into balls. Set the balls into greased muffin tin wells or, well-spaced, onto parchment lined sheets. Cover and let rise until doubled. 

Have oven preheated to 350 degrees. Bake freestanding loaves for 25 to 30 minutes, loaves in pans may take 5 or more minutes longer, to an internal temperature of about 195 degrees F. Dinner rolls will bake in about 15 minutes.

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The second bread is fantastic due to its lack of added flavors, making the bread itself wonderfully flavorful in all its "bread-ness," but also making it a superb pairing with anything with lots of highly flavored sauce. It is an Italian style bread, and also a soured bread. It is up to your own discretion how long to allow the souring to go on, from one to three days, before working with the bread. Not a true sourdough in the sense of using a starter that is maintained and fed regularly, but a one-time sourdough, nonetheless. Any time bread is left to develop flavors this way, it unlocks things inside the wheat that bring out new and different flavors than would have been there if just made straight through in one day. Just be sure to plan ahead for when the bread will be needed, from one to three days.
Italian Bread
Italian Bread

Italian Bread

Italian Bread
Italian Bread
Makes 2 loaves

STARTER:
1 cup water
1 cup bread flour
1 packet (2½ teaspoons) "instant" or "quick rise" yeast 

DOUGH:
1 cup water
3½ cups bread flour
1¼ teaspoons instant or quick rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt

cornmeal for sprinkling

MAKE STARTER: Place the 1 cup of water into a large mixing bowl. Stir together the 1 packet instant yeast and the 1 cup bread flour, then add to the water in the bowl and stir well, about 4 or 5 minutes. Cover with plastic film and set aside in a room temperature place for 1 to 3 days. At this point it should have risen, become bubbly and possibly fallen again. It will smell yeasty and possibly with an alcoholic tang to the smell. 

French Bread Pan
French Bread Pan
MAKE THE DOUGH: Add the extra 1 cup of water to the soured mixture and stir. Separately, stir together the additional 1¼ teaspoon instant yeast and the 3½ cups bread flour with the salt, then stir this into the bowl with the soured mixture until the mixture comes together, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead the dough for 8 to 10 minutes. Coat a large bowl with olive oil, then set the kneaded dough into the bowl, turning once to coat all sides. Cover the bowl and let rise until doubled in size, about 2 hours. 

If you own a French bread pan, spray the pan with cooking spray, then sprinkle well with cornmeal. If you do not own this type of pan, spray a rimmed baking sheet (or two, if small) with cooking spray and coat with cornmeal. 

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and cut the dough into two equal pieces. Form each piece into a long loaf and set into the wells of the French bread pan or onto the prepared baking sheet(s), well apart. Cover and allow to rise until doubled, about 1½ or 2 hours.

Have the oven preheated to 350 degrees. Bake the risen loaves for about 30 minutes, or until nicely golden. Cool thoroughly before cutting.


My passion is teaching people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and passing along my love and joy of food, both simple or exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me also at A Harmony of Flavors on Facebook, and Pinterest and sign up for my Newsletter.

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