Yorkshire Breakfast Bread.
Bread is like dresses, hats and shoes—in other words, essential!
As soon as September--the unofficial end of summer (one of the wretchedly hottest on record)--arrives, my thoughts turn to food, and baking, and specifically bread baking. It doesn’t need to be freezing winter for me to want to knead a bowl full of dough into some golden loaves. Just a few days with lows in the 60s (Mother Nature has obliged us generously so far this month) whets my appetite for slabs of warm homemade bread with butter.
A New York Times recipe for Brown Bread with Buckwheat and Seaweed almost inspired me to try something different, but after some thought even my adventurous palate couldn't get excited about seaweed slivers in bread. So I flipped through my collection of bread recipes until I rediscovered Old World Breads by Charel Steele, a well-used-and-loved gift from my parents twenty years ago. This book has numerous recipes for basic breads with white, wheat, graham, rye and oat flours, among others, as well as appealing flavored breads with names like Frisian Ginger Bread, Spiced French Coffee Bread, Dutch Cinnamon Swirl, Apple Streusel, Golden Carrot, Rum Honey, Cheese Rye, Dill ... yes, I will be baking these breads in the near future! I suppose it would be wise to step up my workout routine to quell the inevitable waistline expansion that will follow such increased bread consumption.
My eye caught the description for Yorkshire Breakfast Bread: “ ... a rich breakfast bread, delicious with butter, marmalade, and some good English tea.” I happened to have just enough currants, golden raisins, and exactly three egg yolks (leftover from the egg whites I used for S’mores Cupcakes frosting), lots of marmalade, and plenty of English tea! I only had to dash out for a lemon and orange and I was ready go. (For the record, I always have plenty of flour on hand and a jar of yeast in the fridge.)
Making bread can be intimidating, and I suppose a bit mysterious in the beginning, but really anyone can learn the mechanics of it: just follow your recipe, then use a little elbow grease to knead the dough, plop it into pans, let it rise, bake, slice, slather with butter, eat. Repeat last three steps as necessary.
With time and practice it becomes a little more soulful. You begin to understand the chemistry of yeast, sugar and warm milk, know when the yeast/flour mixture is the right consistency for turning onto a counter for kneading, and develop patience for the sometimes monotonous (but really quite sensual) business of pushing and folding the dough over and over and over and over itself to make a smooth, elastic ball that is ready to rise. The sensual aspects of bread are many -- the feel of the dough in your hands as you prime it for rising, the earthy yeasty smell of it before it's cooked, the creamy-smooth surface of the loaves before they go into the oven, and best of all the fragrance that fills your kitchen while they bake. The very idea that you've created one of humankind's staple foods is also truly gratifying.
The dough rose so nicely, I almost didn't want to punch it flat again. But punching it down is the funnest part!
I recklessly used dry yeast that, according to the stamp on the jar, was well past its expiration date. But a sprinkling of sugar activated the yeast and the dough obligingly rose up high! No matter how many times I make bread, it's still a satisfying victory when the yeast does its job.
Such pretty, puffy dough! Okay, enough gawking--time to go into those pans for one more rising, then into the oven.
As these lovely loaves baked, the delicious, appetizing, enticing, mouthwatering, heavenly fragrance of lemon and orange filled the house, just like Christmas.
I would have given myself a blue ribbon for these beauties.
Gorgeous! If I humbly (and proudly) say so myself. This dough behaved well from start to finish--the loaves rose perfectly in the bowl and pans, and then just a bit more in the oven. They sounded suitably hollow when knocked, a sure sign they are done. Oh yes, time to cool and slice. And eat.
And Yorkshire Breakfast Bread is, as promised in the book, delicious toasted with butter, marmalade and tea. And I'm certain would go quite well with a typical Yorkshire breakfast.
If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.
This stuff is heavenly, indeed.