Sunday, September 7, 2014

No Special Equipment Needed

*Just a quick update! The original post was published on 9/7/2014. I've since edited for more clarity. If you have any questions, post a comment below! I'd love to answer them!

"And Abraham went quickly into the tent to Sarah and said, 'Quick! Three seahs of fine flour! Knead it, and make cakes.'" Genesis 18:6

I ponder a lot of things when I have the time and the weather is right to make bread. Sometimes it is silly things, like what color I would paint my toes if I had any nail polish. Other times it is what I have been studying lately. These days when I spend time with Jesus (it's what I call my 'quiet time'), I am studying Genesis. I have just finished the story of Abraham, and I am marveling at the way God works. In the story that the quote above comes from, God appears to Abraham as three men before He goes on to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. I don't know why this part about Abraham telling Sarah to make all of these cakes was included, except perhaps because God lingered with them. God must have, because three seahs is a whole lot of flour. According to my footnotes, one seah is 7 quarts. That's 28 cups of flour per seah, for a grand total of 84 cups of flour. That's a lot of cakes. When I make bread, I use roughly 7 cups of flour for 2 loaves of bread. Sarah was making a TON of cakes. It would have taken her a long time. 

This also got me thinking about the actual making of bread. I think bread is something that in general we take for granted. Most of us go to the store and pick up a loaf, or if we make it at home, it is in a bread machine. This isn't necessary. People have been making bread almost since the beginning. It doesn't require any special equipment or fancy ingredients. It is something that is known universal. It can be cooked in an oven or over a fire, and you don't even have to have a bowl to mix ingredients in. It is something so simple.

And yet, Jesus says repeatedly in John 6 "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst." (v 35)

I don't think that bread is something we should take for granted. It is a gift that God has given us, like many other things, and we should be thankful for it. When we break bread together, it is a special time between family and friends. When we have Communion together, it is a special time with the Father. When we make bread, at least for me, it is a special time that I can spend with The Bread of Life, because He reminds me to spend precious time with Him, and that "As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds of me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever." John 6:57-58. I think that because of the reminder that Jesus is the Bread, I will think on Him and give Him thanks when I make bread, and when I eat it because I will live forever because of Him.

A few notes from my experiment:
1) The best days to make yeast breads are ones that are sunny and not overly humid. If it is rainy, or if as was my luck today, it starts out beautiful for baking, but then the skies break loose in the middle of letting your bread rise, just know that the loaves won't rise quite as well. The bread will still taste just as delicious.

2) When greasing your pans, I prefer olive oil, but really any kind of greasing agent that you normally use will work just fine. Just make sure that if you are using a bread pan to pay special attention to the corners when you grease them to make sure that the bread doesn't stick.

3) This recipe makes two loaves. If you wrap one in two layers of plastic wrap and one layer of tin foil (after it is completely cooled), bread will last forever in the freezer. It normally takes us a week to eat a loaf, so I'm not quite sure how long it will keep before going bad. Remember that there are no preservatives, so it probably won't be as long as store bought.

No Special Equipment Needed

makes 2 sandwich bread sized loaves

1/4 cup water at 105-110 degrees
2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
2 cups milk
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp + 2 tbsp sugar divided
1 tsp salt
7-8 cups flour*

1) Dissolve yeast and 1 tsp sugar in the water, and set aside.

2) In a small sauce pan over low heat, add milk, butter, sugar, and salt. Stir constantly until the butter melts.

3) In a large bowl, add all wet ingredients. Add in flour until you get a soft wet dough. *Note: you may or may not need to use all 7-8 cups of flour. Add 1 cup at a time until you can't stir easily anymore, and then proceed to step 4.

4) Turn out on a counter and knead in flour until the dough is smooth and no longer sticks to your hands or the counter. Don't worry. You can't hurt it. *Note: not all of the flour will work in at this step. You will end up with some on the counter, and that is just fine. And you might only end up with 6ish cups of flour in the recipe which is totally okay. Here in humid SC in the summer, I end up using more flour than in the dry winter. You'll need to experiment for your weather conditions! I put the leftover flour in an airtight container and sift it when I need to dust the counter for different recipes.

5) Place the dough in a large clean greased bowl, cover with a towel, and place in a warm location to rise for 75 minutes, or until the dough has doubled in size. Make sure to turn the dough to grease all sides to keep it from drying out.

6) Punch down the dough, and divide in two. Shape into whatever shape you want your bread to be in, and place in greased pans. Cover with a towel, and let rise for another 60 minutes.

7) Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

8) If desired, paint the top of the bread with an egg wash (one egg and 1/2 cup of milk) for a soft and shiny crust.

9) Bake for 45-60 minutes, or until the crust is a rich brown color. You can also tap the bottom of the loaf and listen for a hollow sound to make sure it is cooked all the way through.

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