I have never been a fan of commercial soft, white sandwich bread, although that is the only type of bread my mother purchased when I was growing up.
When my husband and I moved to a house on the outskirts of town, it was not always convenient to drive to a grocery store to get one or two items, like bread. I decided it was time to learn to make my own.
I had no experience making yeast bread, and I had timidity when I thought about trying.
I remembered the time my mother tried to make bread. She covered the bowl of yeast dough with a towel and placed it on the top of the stove where the heat from the gas pilot lights would help it rise. We went off to church.
When we returned home and opened the kitchen door, the dough had oozed down the front of the oven and between the stove and built-in island.
In order to clean up the mess, my father had to pull the stove from the wall, which was quite a task. My mother never attempted bread baking again.
Before my first attempt, I consulted an older woman who worked with me at Meadowcroft Village in Avella, Pennsylvania. She was an excellent baker. The tip she gave me was to always make yeast bread in the morning, because the dough has to rise with the sun.
I thought bread baking would be snap. Baking bread is a down-to-earth skill. Bread has been around for 6,000 years, and the process hasn’t changed much.
As a potter, I was experienced in kneading the clay to get the air bubbles out and kneading bread dough is similar. Before long, I was turning out delicious, preservative-free loaves of bread.
Poppy Seed Yeast Bread was one of the first breads I learned to make. There are few ingredients and the recipe is not challenging. The texture is nice and slices can be slathered with butter straight from the oven or cooled and used for sandwiches or toast.
Days of fearing carbs are waning, and people are learning to appreciate artisan breads once again. There is nothing more satisfying than the sweet smell of fresh loaves of bread baking in the oven.
Poppy Seed Yeast Bread
2 packages active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1-2/3 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons softened butter
1½ tablespoons poppy seeds
5½ cups bread flour
Dissolve yeast in warm water in large mixing bowl. Add milk, sugar, salt, butter and poppy seeds. Gradually add 3 cups flour, beating until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour until dough is sticky by firm.
Cover and let rise 30 minutes. Punch down. Knead until smooth and elastic.
Shape into 2 loaves and place in 2 greased loaf pans. Cover and let rise 25 minutes.
Bake in 375-degree oven for 25 to 35 minutes or until loaves test done.