Baking on a cold winter’s day

Susan Manzke

The weather outside is frightful but my kitchen is so delightful. Of course, it’s time to bake. Yesterday I made cookies for company. Today my menu centers on hot chicken soup so I’m baking bread.

My children and grandchildren love my homemade bread. If I forget to make a loaf when they visit, they feel cheated, which makes me sad.

There’s a huge bread bowl in my cabinet. I could take it out and start adding ingredients for a four-loaf recipe. I won’t do that though. These days I work one loaf at a time and I cheat on some of the work.

Bread ingredients in bread machine.

I have a bread machine. I let that gizmo do all the kneading for me. When it is whirling, I can do other things—my other excuse is that arthritis in my hands makes kneading painful.

Most times, I don’t allow the bread to bake completely in the machine. After the first rise, I remove the dough. At this point, I put it in a greased loaf pan and let it set in a warm place for the second rise. The best place on a cold winter’s day is in a warm oven.

Timers are set so I don’t forget about the dough. If it is left too long the bread will flop.

The reason I don’t let the bread bake in the bread machine is because of the paddles. These mix everything but when the bread is removed, the paddles leave holes in the finished loaf. If I finish the dough in a loaf pan, it looks more homemade. No odd holes show up when the bread is sliced.

Here’s how I start working with my bread machine—if doing this without a machine, start with a bowl.  Put 2 tablespoons of oil in the machine (or the bowl). Add 2 tablespoons of honey or sugar. Next comes 1 ½ teaspoon of salt. I use 1 ¼ cup of milk in my recipe and 3 ⅓ cups of flour. I used to use bread flour but find that all-purpose flour works just fine.  I top this off with 2 teaspoons of active dry yeast. (Never put the yeast in near the salt. There’s a reaction of sorts that ruins the yeast.)

If using a bread machine, set the pan in place and press start on the dough setting. If working by hand, start mixing and then kneading.

Bread dough after first rise, in warm oven for second rise.

When I was kneading by hand, I worked the dough for about 15 minutes, or until it felt right. When ready, cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place until it doubles. Punch it down and put it in your bread pan for the second rise—this is the point I take my dough out of my bread machine—I hope I’m not confusing everyone.

When ready, bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees in your oven.

Both the machine-kneaded bread and the hand-kneaded bread should come out the same. Let it cool before cutting. If you can’t wait, you should know hot bread is difficult to cut, but great to eat.

After sitting in a cozy, warm oven, this risen loaf is ready to bake.

Sometimes I add flavors to my recipe. A heaping teaspoon of Italian seasoning makes an extra special loaf.

My bread machine came via a rummage sale. So, if you want to give my cheating method a try, check out some sales this coming summer.

I do have a No-knead recipe that I make without the use of my bread machine. That has a secret ingredient, beer instead of milk. If wanted, I could write about that recipe in a week or two.

Susan's Bread Recipe

2 tablespoon oil

2 tablespoon sugar

1 ½ teaspoon salt

3 ⅓ cup all-purpose flour

1 ¼ cup warm milk (not hot)

2 teaspoons of yeast

Mix ingredients together then knead for about 15 minutes until dough feels right. Raise dough in a warm area. When dough is finished rising, punch down and place in greased bread pans, allowing dough to rise a second time. Bake 30 minutes at 350 degrees. (If you need better directions check out bread cookbooks.)

Another golden brown loaf sits on a cooling rack.

No matter if I cheat or not, my homemade bread is always a hot item with family and friends. I wish you good luck with your bread baking efforts.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165;;