Saturday, February 24, 2018

Bread Making

Dear Kitchen Saints,

Jill wanted me to write about how I make bread. I thought I had written about it enough that you all would be tired of me writing about it. But I guess for the newcomers I could write it.

My friends get a kick out of how I make bread. One time Aunt Toot was here visiting and drinking Pepsi and I took the can and threw some in my bread, proving you can make bread out of anything.

Well, basically you need 2 cups of liquid for 2 loaves of bread. This liquid could be milk, water, or juice. You could use a strained meat broth or potato water or any water you have cooked veggies in or whatever. When I would can tomatoes, I would sometimes make a tomato bread with the leftover juice from canning. So put your 2 cups of liquid in a big bowl. Then add a fat like oil or melted shortening. You can add up to a cup or a Tbs, either one. Then add some salt, up to a tsp. Then add a sweetener. This could be pancake syrup or jelly or honey or sugar, brown or white. Add some eggs with this if it flips your trigger. You don’t have to add eggs but if ya wanna, go ahead knock yourself out. Add up to 4 or 5 if the hen is layin’ more eggs then you can figure out what to do with. Then add enough flour and stir it all up until it looks like pancake mix or a cake mix. Stir it good.

Now get out a little bowl and put warm water in it, a little hotter than spit, about a half cup, and put in 4 Tbs of yeast or 2 packages of yeast for 2 loaves of bread. Now don’t get in a big hurry with the yeast. If the yeast isn’t good, then your bread won’t be good. So test your yeast as it is in the water. Add about a Tbs of sugar and see if the yeast bubbles. This should take about 10 minutes for the yeast to bubble. If it don’t bubble, then toss it and go buy some more yeast or try putting hotter water in. Yeast has to be kept snug and warm and secure. Put a cloth over it, too. Well, really, you should do the yeast first and then let it set a bit of time as you mix all the other stuff. But it don’t matter! So after the yeast bubbles, then put it in your bread mixture that looks like pancake mix.

OK, now start stirring up your bread and put in a cup of flour at a time. Now this could be white or whole wheat. You will get a lighter loaf if you use mostly white flour. But for health sake, throw in a cup of whole wheat and also you could add a cup of oatmeal and a cup of cornmeal. Or just do straight white. But like you end up using about 6 cups of flour for 2 loaves of bread. So a good combo would be 4 cups of white and then like 2 cups whole wheat or oatmeal or cornmeal. I have put my oatmeal in the blender and made oat flour. Well, go to kneading and mixing the bread, adding a cup of flour at a time.

Add herbs and spices if ya wanna. See, I made bread with what I had. We had 6 children and little money. So many times for breakfast, I made a big batch of pancakes to feed my hungry children and maybe fried potatoes. If I had a few cups of pancake mix left, I would start bread from it that morning after breakfast. I would heat up the pancake mix and put yeast in it and have that to be my yeast starter. I made many different kinds of pancakes like sweet potato pancakes and Chrissy’s favorite garlic pancakes. I cooked by inspiration and used up what was handy in the fridge. If I had a scraping of jelly, jam or peanut butter in a few jars in the fridge that weren’t being used up, I would put it in my bread. Or like the bottom of the bottle of syrup or even ketchup — no mustard. This way, you can use up leftovers and design your own bread.

You can get pretty free spirited with your bread but some measurements must stand unquestioned… well, at least in my book. Such as the yeast. You use about a pkg for each loaf. The old recipes say to just use one pkg of yeast for 2 loaves but I have always used 1 Tbs of yeast or one pkg for one loaf. I buy my yeast in the big bag, 2 pounds for about 5 bucks. I keep it in the fridge or even in the freezer.

It’s nice to make a big pot of soup on a cold day to warm up the kitchen for the bread. The hot soup keeps the yeast bread happy and friendly. After kneading your bread, set it someplace on the cabinet close to the hot soup to keep it warm. Put a pretty dish towel over the top. The yeast in the bread needs the warmth and covering. Don’t get the covered bread dough too close to the soup as the heat would kill the yeast. Cold won’t kill yeast but heat will.

And it takes a happy Mother to make good bread. If it don’t turn out, you didn’t love it enough. Yeast is alive and does respond to your personality. If I am upset and make bread, it will NOT be good. So be happy when you make the family bread. And ya know if ya have good bread on the table, then just about any dinner will be good.

I especially like to make an ITALIAN BREAD. For the liquid just use tomato soup or a cup of sauce with a cup of water. For this bread I use olive oil and no eggs. I make this bread very plain and use a lot of herbs — no milk or any other ingredients but salt and a bit of sugar, maybe a Tbs. I use mainly white flour for this bread but knead it in cornmeal, about a cup. I use many herbs in this bread. If it’s in the summer, I use my fresh herbs. I use a lot of basil and rosemary in this bread. You would want to blend these herbs up in the blender with maybe your oil or sauce, but you don’t want long pieces of herbs in your bread as you would in your soup. You want just bits of green in your bread. Anyway, I use coarsely ground black pepper in this bread and garlic and sometimes onions, also, ground up with the other herbs. I either put this bread on 2 long cookie sheets or I make round loaves and put them in cast iron skillets to rise and to bake. When the bread is half done and a bit brown, just check it and put butter on the top of the crust and Parmesan cheese and bake abut 15 minutes more.

I guess I would just say, to end this, that you have to take your time when making bread. You can’t hurry it. And when learning to make bread, I ended up throwing a lot of it out in the back yard. But the birds will eat it if it is too hard and they have to eat, too. Or a stray dog or squirrel, whatever. But making good bread will take a large family through a lot of meals.

Bread and Salad

And you know I have told you all that when I homeschooled, I would buy the leftover veggies from the grocery store that they could not sell, for like a buck a box. Sometimes I would get a whole box of lettuce. Or a box of carrots and onions or whatever. So, anyway, our John who was a teen at the time would eat a whole head of lettuce on a dinner plate. And if we had other veggies, he would top it all with these. That and some big slices of crusty bread and some potato soup was a hearty supper.

I had 50 bucks a week to spend on groceries. Jim gave me 100 bucks every 2 weeks. So the first week we would eat pretty good and the second week mainly vegetables, fruit and soups and lots of bread. Often I made homemade popcorn with our soups. If I didn’t get potatoes in the boxes of veggies, I would buy huge bags of them. We went through 20 pounds of potatoes in 2 weeks. I made lots of mashed potatoes with a meat gravy. Sometimes I would get odds and ends of citrus fruits from my boxes behind the store. Fruits like grapefruit, lemons, and limes and oranges. So I would get out my old fashioned glass juicer and juice these fruits and make a good juice. Papa usually did this as he made the best juice you could imagine. You have to add water and sugar. But, oh, is this juice good.

As a mom, it took a lot of wheelin’ and dealin’ to keep my children in good food. The world would have called the boxes I bought for a buck or 2 just garbage. But I would take my produce home and throw out on my garden what wasn’t good, on my compost pile. Then I would peel and carve and save what was good of the produce. My children were all healthy and we never had to go to a doctor for colds, etc. But talk about a working mother — I worked like a dog keeping my family in clothes and food.

I didn’t complain if Papa didn’t have enough money to give me for much food. I knew he was doin’ his best and supporting all of us the best he could. It was my job to keep a home. The Bible says that there is profit in all labor. And I felt I had an important job to do to keep food on the table and the wolves away from the door. I didn’t have much money to work with but I learned as I stayed in obedience to my husband that God certainly does provide as I walk as Keeper at Home.

If Mother will remain content and happy and trusting in the Lord, her family will stay happy and quiet, too. And the heck with what anyone thinks about it. I was so busy when I was raising my 6 children, I didn’t hardly notice what others outside my home were doing. I didn’t watch TV except for Little House on the Prairie and the Waltons and some other family specials. I was almost continually in the kitchen or wheelin’ and dealin’ ways to get food. Mainly prayin’ for food. And I saw miracles of answered prayer. The Lord knew I had 6 children and I had them all by faith. Wouldn’t He make a way for me to raise them? Yes, He did. He was faithful. Oh, yes, he was faithful to me.

I didn’t complain to Papa. I made sure I always spent some of my grocery money on coffee for Jim’s breakfast and after work. I kept a lot from Jim. I didn’t want to worry him. He was working as hard as any man and I didn’t want to discourage him. As Mothers we can’t set a fire of fear into our homes with crying over the obvious. Jim gave me what he had to give and any decent wife should be happy with that and I was. It was my job to make a home with 50 bucks a week and by God’s help and grace, I did.

I remember my Mom bringing over a bunch of paper towels. We ran out of toilet paper and so I took my bread knife and cut the paper towel roll in half and put the rolls on my toilet paper roller. Christian Joy laughed so hard about that, but it kept us in toilet paper for a few more days.

In my last book, I wrote about the Fancy Water I gave my children as a treat. Just ice water in a beautiful old crystal glass pitcher. They thought it was a treat!

Soup’s On!

One soup I used to make the kids they called “Chicken of the Sea Soup.” I made it like a chicken soup but without the chicken. I used drained tuna fish. But the children for the longest time thought the tuna was chicken. Well, they loved it, anyway, but named it “Chicken of the Sea Soup.” It was not really a homemade soup. I would take a few cans of cream of chicken soup and add veggies and milk or water. I could get a lot of mileage out of a can of soup. You could also add a can of chicken noodle soup to this. But I would put in my herbs and pepper, and the soup looked good and the kids thought that was chicken in there and thought we were rich.

Often I would buy a big turkey after the holidays for 59 cents a pound and I would always pass it off as chicken. Dan always loved chicken! But he barely got any. One meal I fixed went like this. You make the tuna patties mixing drained tuna with eggs and crackers. You fry the patties in a hot oiled skillet. When brown put them in a baking dish. Then over the top you put diluted cream of chicken soup and bake it in the oven. I would use one can of tuna for the whole family so that meant a lot of crackers. I called this “Chicken Sasserole.” Dan loved it as he thought it had chicken in it but, with so many crackers, no one could tell. But the cream of chicken soup over the top was enough to give it all the smell of chicken and so that was enough for Dan.

Another meal I made smelled just like a beef roast. I put a frozen pound of hamburger in the middle of my roaster and added potatoes, onions and carrots. It smelled like a roast and I sliced the meat like it was one. The kids didn’t care until they got wiser and older. Then they noticed I was just slicing a pound of hamburger and calling it a roast. I hid it under a brown gravy mix and called it a day. Of course, the Swiss steak was hamburger hidden beneath tomato soup and onions. And Salisbury Steak was hamburger patties under mushroom soup with onions. Jim and I would sit at the table and say how tender the steak was and how good of a piece of meat it must have been. Well, it was very tender!

Well, I am laughing too much to write so I must go for now. I am sending this to Christian Joy and I hope she will tell some more of the things we used to have for supper.


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