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Heart, Food, Comfort: A Family Tradition

May 18, 2013

cardamom flavored yeast bread

1 cup milk (skim, 1%, 2% or whole)

1 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 pkgs. (2 Tbsp.) active dry yeast (not bread-machine type!!)

1/2 cup lukewarm water

2 eggs

1/2 cup shortening

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

5 cups enriched flour (King Arthur is my choice – “never bleached, never bromated”)

Additional flour for kneading and shaping

The directions begin with scalding the milk, which I used to do – as my mother did – but really, if you think about it, that no doubt goes back to pre-Pasteurization times when you had to for health’s sake. It is helpful to heat the milk to “pretty hot” to expedite the melting of the shortening, but if it’s not scalded, you’ll avoid the rather disgusting skin that forms on top! So, heat it up, then add the salt and sugar, stir to dissolve, and add the shortening. Even with the milk quite hot, this used to take so long when I used to remove the pan from the burner to stir that it cooled off too much and the melted shortening would start to congeal before all of it had melted in the first place. The melting-of-the-shortening has always been to me the only drudgery part of the whole process, so I started leaving the pan on the burner, turned to medium-low, until all the shortening was melted.

The next thing is to let that sit until it’s cooled to lukewarm because you don’t want to kill the yeast that goes in next. It’s a bit tricky, though, since the shortening wants to thicken up again if you wait too long. (If it does, just put it back on low heat to re-melt, then cool again). If you pour the milk-shortening into a large mixing bowl, the cooling period is pretty quick. Dissolve the yeast in 1/2 cup of lukewarm water before adding it to the bowl. In a cup, beat the eggs just to combine the yolks with the whites, then stir into the liquids along with the cardamom.

Add 3 cups of flour and stir well. Add the rest of the flour 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. Cover the bowl tightly (I use aluminum foil at this point) and let stand for 10 minutes. Put on floured board and knead lightly. The dough is pretty sticky, so it’s helpful if you have about a cup of flour heaped at the side of the board to flour your hands and to re-flour the board if the dough sticks. Wash and thoroughly dry the bowl (or use another) and grease it lightly with canola oil (may use cooking spray, but not olive oil). Place the dough into the bowl and then turn the dough over so that the oil is also on the top to prevent a crust from forming. Cover bowl with a cloth and keep warm without any draft (like an open window). Let rise until double in bulk. This can take anywhere from one to two hours, depending on how warm the room is.

Once the dough has risen to double the original bulk, punch down and empty out (use a rubber spatula if need be to get it all) onto a floured board. Using a big knife, cut the dough in two and set one piece aside out of your way on the board. Cut the other piece into three equal pieces. Each of these will be rolled out to make a rope for braiding. Keep adding flour, a little at a time, to the work area so the rope won’t stick as you work on it. Roll each piece on the floured board as if you’re rolling clay or PlayDoh into a long rope, with both hands. Each rope should end up about 2′ long.

When you have the 3 ropes formed, braid them together as if you’re braiding hair. When you have them braided, bring the ends together to make a ring. The ends of the ropes can be woven together to make a pretty junction, or just kind of mush them together as [non-artistic] I do – just so the ring ends are joined. Place the braid on a greased cookie sheet and cover with a cloth.

Form the second piece into a braid the same way; cover with a cloth and let rise about an hour. Since there’s a bit of time lapsed between making the two braids, they can be baked separately in a 350 F. oven, about 1/2 hour or until lightly browned on the bottom. When you rap your knuckles on the bottom of the cookie sheet, like knocking on a door, there’s a hollow sound when the bread is done. Also, wet the tip of your finger and lightly touch it to the bottom of the sheet – it will hiss like a hot iron when the bread is done. Have fun!!

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From → Kitchen Chatter

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