January 11, 2011

Rye Bread

My mom makes the absolute best bread. She has a knack for it. I, on the other hand, have struggled with bread-making for years. There are various reasons, but I think my lack of patience is the main culprit.
A while ago I asked my mom, "Do you really wait for it to rise twice and then a third time in the pan before you bake it?" She replied "Yes" with a look of "are you seriously asking me this" on her face. "Ohhh..." I said.
I guess my idea of making bread is 1. mix the ingredients up 2. put it in a bowl for a while (but not too long, because kids are bugging me that they're hungry and I need to feed them fast) 3. throw it in a pan and send it to the oven 4. eat it.
So, you see, the idea of actually letting it rise and punching it down a few times eluded me. What I didn't realize is that this step is pretty important. The bread needs to release some gas. Yep, I said it. Bread is gassy. If it doesn't have the chance to properly relieve itself, well... it just won't rise like it's supposed to.
So, if you decide to try this recipe, give yourself some time before you plan on actually eating it. I always start making it early in the morning so that by noon you can have it in the oven.

First things first. Mix your ingredients together and knead the dough until it is soft but not sticky. Put it in a greased bowl and wait for it to rise once. Punch it down. Wait for it to rise again. Punch it down. Here's a picture of my dough before I punched it the first time.
Lookin' good, huh? Just wait, it gets better. After you've punched it down twice, it's ready to go to the bread pan. You can use whatever bread pan you have. But, this is what I use.
Aluminum cans. It's what my mom uses and it's genius. The bread comes out perfect for slicing. And, if you buy cheese from the deli, the round slices fit on the bread like they were meant to be together. Just make sure you give the inside of the can a healthy dose of greasing. You don't want your bread to stick.

This is the finished product. Wonderfully brown on the edges. Moist in the middle. Did I mention perfect for slicing? So, so, so yummy. It also reminds me of my hometown's water tower. Strange, but weirdly true.
Enjoy. If I can make this, almost anyone should be able to.

Elaine's Rye Bread Recipe
2 1/2 cups warm water (lukewarm)
1 pkg. yeast (or 2 tsp.)
3 1/2 tsp. salt
3 T. sugar
1 T. shortening
2 cups rye flour
4 cups white flour

Directions: Put yeast in bowl; add water and let sit for a minute. Add sugar and let yeast mixture sit for a few more minutes. Add salt and shortening and flour. Add enough flour to make dough smooth and elastic; knead well. Put in greased bowl. Let rise (about 1 1/2 hours). Punch down. Let rise again. Place in well greased bread pans and let rise; about 1 hour. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.

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