Old Order Amish Bread
Holy crap, people. Holeeeeey crap! This bread is amazing. It contains no butter, no eggs, and no milk, and yet it is tender and slightly sweet, with an unidentifiable caramel-y flavor that is kind of addicting. Soft and slightly chewy inside, but with a crunchy (but not hard) crust.
Here is the recipe, straight out of Bernard Clayton’s Complete Book of Breads.
Old Order Amish Bread
5-6 cups bread flour
1 package dry yeast
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups hot water (120-130 degrees)
1/3 cup cooking oil (I used canola)
In a large bowl, measure 2 cups flour, then yeast, sugar, and salt. Whisk to combine. Stir in water and oil until well blended. Add additional flour 1/2 cup at a time, first with a wooden spoon, then with your hands, until a rough mass has formed and the dough has cleaned the sides of the bowl. (Note: Use your judgement when adding the flour – I used only 4 1/2 cups of flour.) Dough should be elastic, but not sticky.
Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead 8 minutes.
Wash and grease the bowl, then return dough to it (I also greased the top of the dough to prevent cracking). Cover and let raise in a warm place (in my case, a 100 degree, door-cracked oven) until doubled, approximately 1 hour.
Punch down, then recover and let raise again, appx. 45 minutes.
Turn out onto work surface, punch down, and knead briefly to work out bubbles. Divide in half and form into 2 loaves and place in medium-sized greased loaf pans. (If you only have giant pans like I do, it will still work, but the loaves will be more free-form, not square).
Cover loaves and let rise until 1″ above pan (or until you feel like it), appx. 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees 20 minutes before baking (if you are letting your bread raise IN the oven – this would seem to pose a problem, but it all worked out okay – the bread spent half the time rising in the oven, and half in my cold kitchen).
Put loaves in hot oven and let bake 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 30 more minutes.
When loaves are browned and tester comes out clean, turn out from pans right away and cool on wire racks.
Try not to burn yourself when you cut into one approximately 5 minutes later because the suspense is killing you.
Slather hot bread with butter and devour.
If you were pretty on top of things (like I was, since I had the day off), you will have also made some kind of stew that was simmering on a back burner all day. I meant to make Vegetable Beef stew, but ended up realizing I had no stewing beef in the fridge and this was A) a snow day and B) there was no way I was driving all the way to the grocery store just for a little stewing beef when I had ground beef in the fridge. SO! I made hamburger stew.
I started by roasting some beef marrow bones (because I had them) with some vegetables (old carrots and celery and an onion). Then I tossed it all into a big stock pot and added a lot of cold water and some herbs. Then I simmered the heck out of it. Then I pulled the bones from the pot, ladled out a quart of the stock, then pureed the veggies into the rest of the stock. I was browning hamburger in another pot as I was doing this (and the bread was rising in the oven). I scooped out all the bits that refused to puree (mainly strings from the celery) and added it to the pot of by-then-cooked hamburger. A large can of diced tomatoes, two diced red potatoes, and two ribs of sliced fresh celery got added. Frozen green beans, salt, and garlic powder got added last. It was delicious.
The boy and I each had a bowl of stew, but we somehow managed to eat almost the entire loaf of bread. Hmmm….
I did finish that piece, by the way. It was just there for illustrative purposes. Also, be forewarned that if you do bake homemade bread, your table (or wherever you cut it) will invariably be covered in a variety of crumbs. I am sad to say that some of those crumbs are leftover from Icelandic Brown Bread. That stuff gets hard, fast! But it also makes terrific bread pudding. But that’s another post, methinks.
Time to get my butt out of the house, if only to go shovel out my car.