The smell of fresh bread baking is one of my very favorite comfort smells. The smell triggers sweet childhood memories. This recipe came from my Mom's recipe box in 1960 and it's the only one we use. That being said, I am positive that I will never be able to make a loaf of bread as good as Mom's.
This recipe is also very versatile and can be made into almost anything that uses bread dough. Loaves, rolls, fried bread, cinnamon rolls, caramel rolls and whatever else you can think of. I'll cover the sweet rolls in the next couple of blogs. I can tell you that right now I have a terrible belly ache from testing all the breads!
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon salt
1 1/2 Tablespoon shortening
1 package dry yeast
2 cups warm water
up to 6 cups flour (I don't think I've ever used over 5 cups)
This recipe yields 2 loaves.
Soften yeast in warm water. (about five minutes.) It will go from 'grainy' looking to smooth once it is softened.
Add sugar and shortening.
Add 2 cups flour. Whisk until well blended. Add salt. (Do not skip the salt. Salt strengthens the gluten protein.)
Add 2 cups more flour. Mix with spoon until sticky ball forms. Dough will be pretty sticky.
Grab an apron if you don't already have one on. If you don't have an apron make sure you don't care if you get flour on the front of your shirt. The rule seems to be if you wear an apron you won't get any flour on you. If you don't wear one you will be wearing the flour.
Get a place ready on your counter. Flour the counter with about 1/2 cup of flour. (Bringing your total flour to 4 1/2 cups now.)
Set a kitchen timer for 11 minutes. You're going to be kneading the bread for 10 minutes minimum and the extra minute is to turn the dough onto the floured surface and either wash your mixing bowl or find a clean one to put the kneaded dough into. Don't forget to wash your hands and take off your rings.
Turn out onto well floured counter. Knead for a minimum of 10 minutes adding only enough flour to keep dough from sticking.
You will notice too that as you get close to the 10 minute mark your hands will be much cleaner. The dough is almost ready!
Place kneaded dough into greased bowl.
Cover with towel and let rise until double in size. Rising time will vary depending on the temperature where the dough is sitting.
Punch down. Really. Just make a fist and punch the dough.
Shape into loaves or rolls. I don't spend a lot of time on the shape. If it looks about right I am happy.
Let rise again until double in size.
Bake at 400F for 30-40 minutes for loaves and 15-20 minutes for rolls until golden brown.
Remove from pans and brush tops and sides with melted butter.
I left the rolls in the pan since it is disposable but the bottoms get a little mushy.
Our very favorite treat is fried bread. I could skip the rolls and loaves completely and just fry it.
Heat a skillet with 1/4" oil or shortening on medium to medium high heat. (I prefer shortening.)
Spray your hands with cooking spray. Pinch off a ball of dough and stretch it out. Place it in the hot pan.