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Sunday, February 6, 2011

My Family's Recipes - Grandma Grace's Bread & Rolls

We don't really need more white bread in our lives. But, we do need more loving remembrance. This bread recipe is from the Covey household's cook book, which I received at Christmas time. I've come to the conclusion that the recipes that were removed from the binder and stuffed back in, loose, are the frequent-use recipes. Grandma Grace's recipe for Bread and Rolls appears at least twice, and neither version was hooked into the rings of the binder. One is the typed version I've shown here, and another is hand copied by my mother-in-law, Pat, in pinkish, strawberry red ink.
This recipe is remarkably like the basic bread recipe that appears in the Prudence Penny Cook Book, published by the San Francisco Examiner in 1939. I'll have to ask Grandma Grace how she came by this recipe. In 1960, the family was still living in up-state New York.

This recipe is modern and gives a list of measured ingredients, along with instructions. I've come to appreciate modern recipes as I work through my cook book collection and my family's heirloom recipes. My grandmothers and great aunts often wrote down a list of ingredients with no instructions. There is a lot of assumption that you know what to do. I found one bread recipe in the Encyclopedia for the Home, by Maud C. Cooke (1902) that reads as follows:

"Good Bread - Set a thick sponge at night with warm water, not milk, using 2 yeast cakes for four very large loaves; beat the sponge thoroughly. In the morning take 4 tablespoonfuls of white sugar dissolved in 3/4 cup melted butter, 1 teaspoonful of salt and flour enough to make a soft dough. Mold vigorously. Let it rise until very light, mold again. Let it rise again, less time. Make in loaves, rub each one with melted butter and bake in a good oven. Bread made in this way is deliciously light and tender."

That's it! The mysteries of kneading and forming a working gluten layer are only alluded to as "Mold vigorously." Clearly these women must have seen bread made frequently, or they never would have been able to fill in the blanks.

Another thing I notice about these early recipes and cook books is that they often try to pack each dish with "energy." There is often a distinction made between "workers" and "brain-workers" and their nutritional needs are seen as very different. Bread was often fortified with milk, butter or eggs. These bread recipes arise out of a time in history when people doing heavy labor needed lots of calories.
Grandma Grace's recipe uses something like a sponge in that the initial gluten activation is done by beating the dough with wooden spoon while the dough contains only half of the flour. Once the remaining flour is added, it is kneaded by hand until smooth and elastic. I followed her instructions, except that I used my Kitchen Aid mixer in place of my muscles. I have found that I can shorten the kneading time by about 1/3 when using machinery. However, it is important to finish the kneading by hand. Kneading by pushing the dough, then, pulling the farthest edge up and over the top and pressing down, will create the gluten sheet that is needed to hold the yeast gases in the bread. By performing this motion repeatedly, turning a quarter turn each time, you will soon have a smooth ball.

I placed the dough in an oiled bowl and let it rise twice. This isn't really necessary, but I was not ready to bake my bread after the first rise. Check the dough a few times as it rises. If you let it over-rise, the gluten layer will begin to have holes from the bubbles that have formed and popped. It's better to press the extra gases out and reform it into a ball while the gluten layer is still in tact and let it rise again.
When you are ready to form the loaves, press the excess gases out of the bread and split into two. (If making rolls, cut each half into 8 equal portions.) Let the dough rest for 10 minutes. When you return, place the gluten layer down on the work surface and press the dough into a rectangle.
Roll the dough into a cylinder and pinch the edges. Place the dough, seam side down in a greased loaf pan. Let the dough have a final rise in the pan. It should double in size in about 30 minutes. For rolls, stretch the gluten layer around the rest of the dough and pinch it together on the bottom. Place the rolls, pinched side down, on a greased baking sheet. They will also need a final rise of about 30 minutes.
Golden Brown!

Bread and Rolls
2 cups milk
1 package dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
1 mixing spoon oil per loaf (I used 2 tbsp. butter)
6 cups flour

Scald milk. Soften yeast in lukewarm water 5 t0 10 minutes. Measure sugar, salt and fat in mixing bowl. Add hot milk and stir until fat is melted. When milk mixture is lukewarm, add yeast and half of flour. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon. Add enough more flour to make a soft dough, adding 1/2 cup at a time. Turn on to a floured board. Allow to rest 10 minutes. Cover to prevent drying.

Knead dough until smooth and satiny - 10 minutes - until it springs back when pressed with a finger. Shape into a ball and put into a greased bowl. Coat side and top of dough with the oil in the bowl. Let rise until doubled in bulk. Press down to remove bubbles.

Divide dough into two equal parts. Let rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Put into greased loaf pans and brush top with fat. Let rise until doubled.

Bake in a preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. 400 degrees for metal pans. 375 for glass pans.
(My rolls were ready in about 20 minutes.)

Bread is done when it shrinks from the pan and sounds hollow.

Note: Allow to cool thoroughly before slicing.

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