Posted in Baking, Bread

Local Crisis

A layer of kefir milk with the "grains" on topMy former mother-in-law (FMIL) worked, many years ago, for a company which makes plastic bags. You know, the kind you find at your local supermarket when you are buying produce. They come in rolls, mounted in dispensers above the glistening array of fruits and vegetables you want to take home, but don’t want to have moisten your check stand impulse copy of Beautiful Bodies and How You Can Get One (subtitle: You Obviously Don’t Have One or You Wouldn’t be Reading This Drivel).  I digress.

The bag company used to occasionally make a mistake or have a client return a batch of bags.  They were always quite serviceable, the wording was not what the company wanted.  Finest Prosecute Available never sold many Bartlett pears.  The “oops” bags were placed out for the employees to take home, gratis.  FMIL took advantage of the offer, sharing rolls of bags with us as well.  It was a sad day, sometime last year, when I used the last of those roll bags.  It was so incredibly handy, especially when the kids were in diapers, to have bags whenever we needed them.

So I saved my bread bags to fill the void.  And now comes the local crisis.  I haven’t bought bread in so long, I’ve run out of bread bags as well.  I’m having to freaking BUY food storage bags.  What is up with that?

Not buying bread?  I am making it of course.  I posted about using kefir in all my baking, but I thought today I’d post my go-to recipe for every day bread.  It slices well, tastes great and of course, uses kefir.  Do not despair if you don’t have any kefir – the original recipe calls for buttermilk.  As a bonus, I’ll tell you how to never run out of buttermilk again (as if that was a big concern, I know).

This recipe is adapted from the booklet which came with my Cuisinart bread machine (motto:  you’ll love being this lazy).

If you don’t have a bread machine, mix all the ingredients and knead till smooth and elastic.  Set in a greased bowl and let rise till doubled.  Meet me back towards the end of the bread machine recipe…..**

Oatmeal Bread – bread machine recipe

  • 1 3/4 cups Buttermilk at 80-90ºF
  • 2 T unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 T real maple syrup, or substitute raw sugar.  Don’t have any of those?  Throw in some regular sugar; it just won’t have the complexity of taste.
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup old-fashioned oats (not quick cooking)
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast.

Kefir can be substituted for the buttermilk.  If the kefir is still liquid, use the amount listed.  If it’s of a yogurt consistency, use 2 cups and monitor the moistness as it’s in the mixing phase.

Set your machine to its dough cycle and go read something fun till it’s done.  I highly recommend Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, although if language of a colorful nature is to be avoided, this is not the book for you.  She describes herself as the blogger who says f**k a lot.  If you can overlook the language, or at least hide the book from the kids, you will laugh yourself silly!

Back to the bread.  ** Hand mixers, rejoin us here as well.

Divide the dough in half and place each half in a greased bread pan, punching down to make sure there are no air bubbles.  Cover with a towel and let rise till doubled.

Preheat the oven to 375º.  Bake the loaves for 25 minutes or until slightly browned on top.  Remove from oven, cool in pans for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack until completely cool.  Makes 2 loaves (duh) which slice and toast well.  Please honor your hard work and use butter rather than margarine.  Trust me, it’s worth it.

Bonus – never run out of buttermilk

OK, you have to start with cultured buttermilk — I can’t pull this one out of thin air.  You can either purchase a small amount at your store or buy Buttermilk Starter Packets.

In a sterile quart jar, put 6-8 ounces of the buttermilk and fill with fresh milk (that will be a 1 to 4 ratio, approximately).  Store bought milk is fine, as long as it is not Ultra Pasteurized.  Better, if available, is farm fresh milk.  Put a lid tightly on the jar and shake to evenly distribute the culture.

Place in a warm part of the room and leave until the milk thickens.  This should take about 24 hours, depending on room temperature.  If it takes longer than 36 hours, your original bacteria was dead and you should throw the milk away and begin again.

Once you have achieved buttermilk-ness, store in the refrigerator for several weeks, saving out enough at the end of the jar to make a new batch.

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