Thursday, May 29, 2008

Batter up!

As many of you know, I've had a blast over the last few months with my bread baking. Let's see. There's the regular yeast breads (here and here), no knead breads, those gorgeous buns, the bagels, and of course, the sweet breads (pumpkin and amish friendship bread). That covers yeast breads and quick breads, but there is one other kind of bread I had never tried. In fact, until recently, I had never heard of it. It's called batter bread. 

My friend Sharli gave me a copy of a Batter Bread Chart published by the Ladies' Home Journal (unfortunately, I couldn't find it anywhere on line, so I've tried to copy a few of the recipes below in case anyone wants to try it).  Her mom uses this recipe to make all their homemade breads. Sharli says the bread is great, so I thought I would give it a try!

To look at the chart, it seems totally easy. And after all those months of kneading, this seemed like a low-mess, low intensity bread-making experience. Rather than go totally basic on the first run, I decided to be brave and go for the whole wheat bread.  According to the recipe, I proofed 1 pkg of yeast (or 2-1/4 tsp) in 1-1/4 c. water and stirred in the 2 tbs of honey. Once the yeast had been activated, I added 2 tbs butter, 1 tsp salt, 1-1/2 c. white flour and 1/2 c. whole wheat flour. First, I beat on low speed with a mixer until blended (upgraded super cool, ultra-mega mixer not required, but we got it covered), then increased the speed to high and beat 1 minute. Then, I scraped the bowl and beat 1 minute more. Next I stirred in an additional 1 c. whole wheat flour with a wooden spoon. The batter was similar in consistency to pancake batter until I stirred in that final cup of whole wheat flour.  It's still pretty wet, but more dough-like now. So far so good. 

Time for the batter to rise. As instructed, I covered the bowl and let the batter rise in the oven until doubled in bulk (I left it for the recommended 45 minutes - it really did rise that fast). In the meantime, I greased a loaf pan. After the bread has risen, I "punched" the batter down by stirring 30 strokes with a wooden spoon. It was at this point, that it really starting looking like bread dough. As I was stirring, the dough started pulling away from the sides of the pan. Alright - we're in business! Into the loaf pan we go (gloop). It was thick enough that I had to spread it out a bit with the spoon to make it even in the bread pan. Then I covered it all up and let it rise in the oven for 30 minutes. 

After 30 minutes of the second rise, I took the bread pan out of oven to let it rise for another 10 minutes on the counter while I preheated the oven to 375.  Then I baked it for 40 minutes. I have to admit, it's a gorgeously shaped loaf. I admired it as it cooled (out of pan) on a wire rack.

And here we are. Bread has cooled. House smells REALLY good. Hmm. It looks alright. Let's see here... little slice here... little nibble there...

Mmm good bread! And it's light enough I think we can do sandwiches with it - this has been a problem. All the breads have been great, but until I made those buns, we didn't have anything we could eat a sandwich on. The others were just too dense (though the dense bread went great with soup; made awesome toast too!).  So now we have two choices for sammies - homemade yogurt rolls or whole wheat batter bread. Batter up! It's time for dinner!

P.S. This was super easy! If you've been thinking about baking bread but are unsure about the whole kneading thing - give it a try. It really did make a tasty bread and it just can't get much easier. Below are the recipes for 7 of the 12 breads listed on the chart. If you want the entire chart, drop me an email (see the address on the side bar) and I'll send you the PDF. Have fun!
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Directions (ingredients per recipe below):
  1. In large bowl, dissolve yeast in water. Stir in honey.
  2. Add butter, salt, and only 2 c. flour. Check individual recipes for "extras" to be stirred in. Beat on low speed with mixer until blended. Increase speed to high; beat 1 minute. Scrape bowl; beat 1 minute more.
  3. Stir in remaining flour and "extras" (check individual recipes) with wood spoon. Cover and let rise in warm place until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
  4. Grease an 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch loaf pan. "Punch" batter down by stirring 30 strokes with wooden spoon. Spoon into loaf pan.
  5. Let rise, covered, in warm place for 30 to 40 minutes or until batter rises to edge of pan (not over). Bake in preheated 375 degree over as directed in individual recipe. Remove from pan. (To determine doneness, tap bottom of loaf with fingertips. It should sound hollow. If not, return to pan and bake for 5 more minutes.) Cool on wire rack. Makes 1 loaf. 

Basic White
1-pkg active dry yeast
1-1/4 c. warm water
2 tbs honey
2 tbs butter
1 tsp salt
3 c. all purpose, white flour
no extras
Bake 35 minutes.

Cheddar Cheese
1-pkg active dry yeast
1-1/4 c. warm water
2 tbs honey
1 tbs butter
1 tsp salt
3 c. all purpose, white flour
Extras - 1 c. shredded sharp cheddar cheese (stir in at step 3)
Bake 45 minutes.

Cinnamon-Raisin
1-pkg active dry yeast
1-1/4 c. warm water
2 tbs honey
2 tbs butter
1 tsp salt
3 c. all purpose, white flour
Extras - 1 tbs cinnamon; 1 c. raisins (swirl in both at step 4 after "punching" down batter)
Bake 40 minutes.
Glaze - Mix 1/2 c. powdered sugar, 1 tbs milk and 1/2 tsp vanilla until smooth. Spread on cooled bread.

Egg
1-pkg active dry yeast
1/2 c. warm water
2 tbs honey
2 tbs butter
1 tsp salt
3 c. all purpose, white flour
Extras - 3 eggs; 1/2 tsp vanilla (stir both in at step 2)
Bake 35 minutes.

Whole Wheat
1-pkg active dry yeast
1-1/4 c. warm water
2 tbs honey
2 tbs butter
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 c. all purpose, white flour
Extras - 1-1/2 c. whole wheat flour (stir in 1/2 c. with white flour in step 2, add remaining in step 3)
Bake 40 minutes.

Caraway Rye
1-pkg active dry yeast
1-1/4 c. warm water
2 tbs honey
2 tbs butter
1 tsp salt
2-1/2 c. all purpose, white flour
Extras - 1 c. rye flour; 1-1/2 tsp caraway seeds (stir in both at step 3) 
Bake 35 minutes.

Sunflower Seed Yogurt
1-pkg active dry yeast
3/4 c. warm water
2 tbs honey
2 tbs butter
1 tsp salt
1-1/2 c. all purpose, white flour
Extras - 1-1/2 c. whole wheat flour (stir in 1/2 c. with white flour in step 2, add remaining at step 3); 1/2 c. plain yogurt, plus 1/4 c. roasted, salted sunflower seeds (stir in both at step 3)
Bake 40 minutes.

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