Saturday, February 5, 2011

Weekend Cooking/Bread-Making/Bread Givers

I've been writing my review of Bread Givers by Anzia Yezierska.  I loved this book.  When you enjoy a book so much it's difficult not to share every little thing about it.  One of the themes is resounding poverty; the Smolinsky family are poor-1920's  poor.  They never  know where their next meal will come from.  The father studies the Torah and expects his family to work for him; to put food on the table.  The mother constantly has to beg the shopkeepers on the Lower West Side of NYC to give her credit so she can feed her family.  It begins like this:
I had just begun to peel the potatoes for dinner when my oldest sister came in, her eyes far away and very tired.  She dropped on the bench by the sink and turned her head to the wall.  One look at her, and I knew she had not yet found work.  I went on peeling the potatoes, but I no more knew what my hands were doing.  I felt only the dark hurt of her weary eyes. (1)
"We must dry our heads worrying for bread, while they bathe themselves in milk and soak in honey."  (81)
Mother skimmed off the fat part of the potato soup, and carefully picked out all the little pieces of suet and fried onions for Father's plate, and handed it to him.  "Woman!" Father frowned.  "Why have you no meat for my dinner this whole week?  With the hard brain work I do day and night, I can't live on the flavour of onions!"  (81)
My quest for weekend cooking is to make some bread for this albeit fiction, yet starving family.  I can't resist.  They need some good bread.  They need a whole pot of potato soup. 

My mom gave me this recipe for bread that uses potato water and I've been excited to try it.  Last time I made mashed potatoes I thought ahead and saved the water.

Ooey Gooey Bread (from Baking with the St. Paul Baking Club)
Makes 3 loaves

1 3/4 cups potato water or 1 3/4 cups water mixed with 2 tsp instant potato flakes
1 3/4 cups lowfat milk
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 1/3 cups honey [local, of course]
1 T. salt
1 cup rolled oats
2 pkgs active dry yeast
2/3 cup bran
6 T wheat germ
1 cup whole wheat flour
7 cups bread flour, about [I don't buy bread flour so I double sift my KAF]
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
2 tsps cinnamon

Heat potato water, milk, and butter in a saucepan over low heat.  As it warms, add honey and salt.  When mixture comes to a boil, add rolled oats then remove from heat, and let cool to lukewarm.
Transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Stir in yeast and let stand for a few minutes until softened.  Add bran and wheat germ, and then beat in whole wheat and bread flour.  Turn out dough onto a floured surface and knead [my favorite part] until elastic and springy.  The dough will be soft and sticky, but resist the urge to add to much extra flour.  Turn into a slightly oiled bowl, turning to coat, cover with plastic wrap.  Let rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
Mix together white sugar, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
Turn dough out onto floured surface, and divide into three pieces.  Roll each piece into a 12-inch x 8-inch rectangle and sprinkle with 4 T. sugar mix.  Take a rectangle and fold the left third to the center and the right and the right third over that, as you'd fold a letter.  Rotate the dough 90 degrees, and roll out again into a rectangle, sprinkling with another 4 T. of sugar mix.  Fold as before.  Form dough into a loaf shape, and place seam side down in a greased loaf pan.  Repeat with remaining 2 pieces of dough.

Cover pans with a cloth, and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven.  lightly cover with foil and bake for another 20 minutes or until loaf makes a hollow sound when removed from the pan and tapped on bottom.  Cool at least 15 minutes before slicing.

This will make a great Sunday morning bread but not the bread I was thinking of for the Smolinsky family.  That potato bread I found at The Barefoot Kitchen Witch's website complete with play-by-play photos:  Potato Bread
I'm going to try her recipe as well-maybe tomorrow.

This post is part of Weekend Cooking, hosted by Beth Fish Reads.  She reviews $5 Dinner Mom Cookbook; Breakfast and Lunch, which seems like a really useful cookbook!

Happy Baking!
Read Bread Givers-you will enjoy it!

6 comments:

  1. I love this post and the book sounds wonderful!

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  2. I was just commenting at Chris's that I love oatmeal bread. And I also love the sound of the book. Wow -- what a story.

    Oh and you are so smart. I never remember to save the potato water.

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  3. I love store bought potato bread so I KNOW I'd love homemade. Thanks for the recipe and the link.

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  4. That potato bread sounds great and I love how it ties in with what you're reading!

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  5. I am reading The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot right now. It is so good so far! My daughter read it and now my mom and I are reading it. Have you heard of it? Non-fiction book about a poor black woman whose cells were harvested when she had cervical cancer in the 50's (without her knowledge) and her cells were the first to grow and divide and were used for many important scientific discoveries and are still used today. I know it doesn't sound that interesting, but it is fascinating.
    P.S. Lindsey took your Clifford bean bag chair for her reading nook.

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  6. quite a story...
    I swear this week I am going to bake my first loaf of yeast bread.
    maybe.

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