Friday, September 18, 2009

Autumn in the Midwest

It’s fun to shuffle your feet through the red and gold, kicking up a whirl of leaves as you stroll along the path. The sound as they dance down the lane is a true sign of autumn, my favorite time of year.
As a child, it meant diving into piles of dry crackling leaves under the ancient maple tree in the front yard and biting into a crunchy juicy apple. As a teen it meant football games and homecoming festivities, pep club sweaters and hot chocolate. In college…change the hot chocolate to beer!

We all have strong memories of autumn. We remember Indian summers from our youth, when fall gave us beautiful sunny, Cerulean Blue days with a herringbone pattern of wild geese overhead. In early October you could watch the vibrant red trees tipped in gold reluctantly releasing their leaves into the cool breeze. By November, the red and gold had turned to shades of Sienna and Umber, as the leaves were ripped from their stems by bitter cold winds.
The summer aromas of meats sizzling on the grill and salads of homegrown tomatoes and bell peppers were replaced with an those of rich beefy stew, hearty potato casserole heavily laced with onion and cream, and of course, that number one “grab you by the heart” aroma, homemade bread.
It is sad but true, so many of us eat on the run, grab something on the way home from work. Our lives, in general, simply do not allow us the time to make homemade yeast breads. I know the bakeries do a wonderful job of baking rich, crunchy loaves, but they don’t come with aroma for the kitchen!
Quick breads might be your answer, or maybe a refrigerator dough, either your own or one made by that pudgy little doughboy. I’d like to suggest batter breads. If you have a few bread recipes, both quick and batter, you can have hot, homemade breads to whet the appetite as autumn meals enter our daily diets
Batter breads are made just like your quick breads, with two differences. First, yeast is used instead of baking powder or baking soda, and second, the batter is beaten for several minutes so the gluten has time to form to hold the carbon dioxide made by the yeast. Make sure you don’t let the breads rise too long, or the structure will collapse. Follow the instructions carefully. If you have ever baked a cake or made muffins, you can make these breads! I should also add, batter breads very often use herbs and spices to enhance the flavor.
Batter breads are tender despite the relatively lengthy beating because when the yeast grows and develops it creates acids and alcohols that help tenderize the bread. The texture of batter bread is more open than kneaded yeast breads, and they will usually have a rougher top, more like a quick bread. As for time, yes they do require a rising period, but it is generally a shorter time than that for traditional yeast breads.
Here is a Quick Bread…
Orange Whole Wheat Bread
2 cups sifted all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
3 ½ teaspoon baking powder (that is 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup whole wheat flour
¾ cup Grape Nuts, a cereal
1 egg
4teaspoons grated orange rind
¾ cup orange juice
¾ cup milk
¼ cup melted butter

Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. Stir in the whole wheat flour and cereal. Beat eggs lightly in a small bowl. Stir in rind, juice, milk and butter. Pour over dry ingredients and stir just until evenly moist. Spoon into a greased 9”x5”x3” loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

A Batter Bread

Herb Onion Rolls
2 packages dry instant yeast
1/3 cup non-fat dry milk
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon salt
1 small onion, minced
1 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled
1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
½ teaspoon dried tarragon, crumbled
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup very warm milk (120-130 degrees)
1 cup very warm water (120-130 degrees)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ cup unbleached flour

Combine yeast, dry milk, honey, salt, seasonings and oil in a large bowl. Stir in warm milk and water. Beat until blended, about 30 seconds. Blend the flours in a bowl, then add 2 cups of blended flour mixture to the yeast mixture. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of flour mixture, beat 1 minute. Beat in remaining flour mixture by hand until heavy and sticky, If too stiff, add 2 tablespoons of oil with the last of flour.
Fill 18 well greased muffin tins, using a wet spoon. Push dough down into cups, smoothing the tops slightly. Cover and let rise for 20 minutes.
Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.

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