24 January 2011

How to Make the Perfect Loaf of Bread

Each Christmas for years, my mom has made bread for all of her children and some of her friends. (I must say I love, love, love to eat it. It tastes like home.) But this year, she surprised me. This year, it was a bit lumpy.

The straight-haired girl has developed a love of bread baking, so she asked her grandma if she could help make the loaves. And then, in true benevolent princess style, she took over the process.

My mother astounded me by not saying a word. She just watched the straight-haired girl do her thing. (Of course, the straight-haired girl had to be teaching someone else: her faithful little shadow.)

They poked and pounded that dough and slammed it on the counter. Mom was cringing. I saw it. I could feel her certainty of impending disaster. These loaves of bread were intended to be given as gifts, but the straight-haired girl was in her element and her grandma knew it.

They finished their loaf making. All the bumpy, lumpy globs were safely in the pans as they washed their hands and skipped off to play. Mom and I looked at each other and smiled and quietly started tucking in corners. The best loaves were given to people who would not have understood why the bread was a bit misshapen, but that lumpy loaf of bread was the best I have ever tasted - for more reasons than one.

Mom's Bread Recipe

1/4 c. shortening
6 T. flour
2 T. salt
12 c. flour
2 pkg. yeast
1/2 c. water, lukewarm
1 qt. milk, lukewarm

Mix sugar, salt and shortening. Beat in yeast (already dissolved in water), milk and 7 c. flour. Beat well. Add 4 more cups flour. Turn out on lightly floured counter and knead 5-10 minutes. Put in greased bowl and cover with clean towel. Let rise 1 hour. Let the grandkids divide the dough into 4 loaves and place in well-greased pans. Let rise until light. Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes. Brush with butter while still warm.

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