Janet's Notebook
Homemade Bread Warms Heart and Home


Reta Smith's Southwestern Cheese Bread


Nothing transports me to a happy place faster than the smell of bread baking. There's something comforting, something happy, something thoroughly warming to the soul about that yeasty, nutty aroma.

Even as a child, bread-baking time was a favorite for me. I'd "oversee" the operation as my mom carefully measured out and then kneaded her delicious doughs. Waiting for them to rise was the hardest part... I never could resist peeking under that dish towel. To a little girl there was something other-worldly and magical about seeing the dough double and tripled in size. In fact, even as a big girl, it's still a wonder to me that such simple ingredients can work together in such perfect harmony.

Now, it's not just my sentimental side flying the bread banner; Practical me is in love with the versatility of making my own dough. In fact, not only are there limitless add-ins - fruits, nuts, veggies, chocolate, cheeses - but most any bread recipe can be adapted to suit any meal of the day.

Carl Smith's Date Pecan Bread, for example, is a perfect way to start off your morning. With its hearty, slightly sweet flavor, this bread is ideal for pairing with a steamy cup of coffee and just a whisper of fruit jam. That said, however, have you ever tried serving a sweet bread like this with your dinner? My goodness, once you do you may never stop! Try this served alongside glazed ham... It is an unexpected pairing of unmatched flavor.

Another favorite Blue Ribbon recipe is Reta Smith's Southwestern Green Chile Cheese Bread. This savory stunner is simply marvelous eaten along with a big bowl of tortilla soup for a filling lunch. But what we recently discovered is how a slice of Reta's bread can also kick-up breakfast time! A fluffy Southwest omelet and a slice of toasted chile cheese bread is about as good a way as I can imagine to get my day off on the right foot.

"This is worth the trouble," says Reta of her homemade chile bread. "It is most flavorful and the taste and aroma is fantastic!"

Working with homemade doughs may be new to some you, but don't let yourself get intimidated! The active dry yeast that most bread recipes call for is now available in small individual packages that make measuring and proofing (or "activating") the yeast a breeze.

Most packages contain about two and a half teaspoons of yeast, but it's a good idea to still do your own measuring. Like any baking project, following a bread recipe to a tee is important. Too much yeast will not only affect your bread's texture, but can also give it a sour flavor. And I don't know about you, but I insist that everything (and everyone) sour or bitter be left at the kitchen door.



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20 Comments
JODIE57
JoSele Swopes - Dec 6, 2010
When it comes to sour dough starter it also depends on the flour that you use for it which gives you your texture....and the longer it goes the more sour it becomes...You can retard your starter by putting it in the fridge by which the cold retards it and then bring it to room temp to start it back up...You could always give loaves as gifts my family loves it when we do that...
heidicookssupper
Heidi Hoerman - Dec 4, 2010
Where was that bakery? My husband's grandfather had a bakery in Battle Creek. MI.
Virginia1
Virginia Brogdon - Dec 4, 2010
Back to salt-rising bread. My mother and I used to drive to a town which was about 25 miles away from where we lived. One of the things we would buy was a loaf or two of salt-rising bread and some doughnuts from a bakery there. I could hardly wait to get home. Mother and I, and my three brothers and Daddy wuld put butter on a slice of bread and then eat some grape jelly or strawberry preserve with it. Yum!
heidicookssupper
Heidi Hoerman - Dec 4, 2010
Let's see, 28 pounds of Kitchen Aid mixer versus some kneading. I do a little kneading but not very much. Sadly not enough counter space to have that mixer handy. Do love the beast, however.
LILLYDEE
Dee Stillwell - Dec 4, 2010
All this talk about kneading makes me tired....lol... thank God for Kitchenade Mixers. I just mix my dough on it and then put on the dough hook for 10 min. I kneed it by kand for about 2 min after that. But it sure takes the work out of it, besides my shoulders won't let me do it anymore.
Donna, I am from the Sacramento area. I treat myself to Boudines Sour Dough bread on occasion since we have a cpl of them in Sac now. They are simply the best of all worlds in SD bread, chewy, crusty and nice and sour. The original bakery on Fisherman's Warf, SF drive the starter up from there every week. Theres just nothing like the bay air for creating the lacto bacillus cultures needed for SD bread.
I used to keep starter going in my kitchen but it got so fattening that I quit doing it. U have to remove and use some every cpl days so I was making always making everything with it, bread, rolls, pancakes..etc.
Angelfoodie
Donna Thiemann - Dec 4, 2010
Oh for sure. I make a buttermilk white loaf that never has leftovers and is only 75 calories too. It's from a nice diabetic site. My family does not know its diet bread and its sooooo tasty too.
heidicookssupper
Heidi Hoerman - Dec 4, 2010
I don't bother with greasing the parchment paper. I've cooked the bread in 'most anything. Sometimes I make it stiffer, knead it a little, and form it into rolls. It really is a forgiving recipe. I found a big rectangular salad bowl I use to make bigger loaves. Sometimes I glaze the top with olive oil, egg wash or milk. Almost anything you do other than burn it makes a loaf of bread that beats fluffy supermarket bread.
Angelfoodie
Donna Thiemann - Dec 4, 2010
I use parchment paper all the time and keep a big roll, I hear your supose to mist the inside of the pot first and grease the paper pretty well. I really wanna try it tho. I think cooksillustrated made a parchment paper "SLING" and greased it too. I will do that with your no knead bread. Can't wait to try it.
heidicookssupper
Heidi Hoerman - Dec 4, 2010
I haven't tried to make a sour dough starter yet. My husband who's from southern Michigan has a hankering for salt-rising bread (which I think smells like ground up rotten socks) and wants us to try making the starter for that. I had a friend with a very old sour dough starter that she kept care of for years but I didn't notice the bread being so interesting.

As to baking the bread in a Dutch oven, yes, I often do it that way. The trick is to have something you can preheat in a hot oven. When I do it that way I have to oil my pan well or the bread sticks like concrete. This may be peculiar to my pots (which are well worn Le Creuset and Copco enameled iron but don't be surprised if you need a chisel and crowbar to get the bread out if you are not using parchment paper.
Angelfoodie
Donna Thiemann - Dec 4, 2010
Hello Heidi, I buy most of my flour at Safeway and all our stores here carry some odd flours in the health food isle. If I am stuck and can't find the more rare flours, like gluten free types I go to Whole Foods or Trader Joes both have online stores I am sure.. Dee..email me here on the site and I'd love to know where you hail from.. Heidi, Have you ever made sour dough?? I am much like Dee in the fact that mine never comes out sour enough.. It has to do with naturally occuring lacto bacillus.. You can buy the culture online and add it to your starter so I am told, but I've never tried it. There is a lot online if you google sour dough bread, lacto bacillus cultures..Gee, I would love to experiment after the holidays are over..Oh forgot thanks for the link to the no kneed bread, I hear if you bake it in a dutch oven you get the lovely crust.. Does anyone do that??
heidicookssupper
Heidi Hoerman - Dec 4, 2010
Donna, I just posted two pictures attached to No Work No Knead Bread that are the pumpernickel-rye-caraway bread we are chewing on right now. Finding easy sources for the odder flours has been tricky. I've had some good luck with Barry Farms in Ohio but lately have been using Spice Sage in the Bronx. Spice Sage's pumpernickel flour is pretty good. Where do you find your flours?
LILLYDEE
Dee Stillwell - Dec 3, 2010
I was starting to think nobody here liked sourdough bread..whew!! I love it and live in CA as well. There is nothing like our sourdough bread anywhere. I lived back east for awhile and searched every where we went. I even started baking my own. I got the texture right but could never get it sour enough for me..lol. The closest store bought I found was Whole Food Market's SD bread.
Angelfoodie
Donna Thiemann - Dec 3, 2010
Thank You Janet for posting this article and creating a lovely discussion. I hope I am not alone with loving sourdough bread and rolls. My best white bread recipe happens to be low calorie too at just 75 calories a slice, I will have to post it..
Angelfoodie
Donna Thiemann - Dec 3, 2010
Oh Jeanie and Heidi I am with both of you. I love making bread and changing up the flour and my bread is what my family craves most. They would love it if I made fresh bread each day so they could devour. And although I have not mastered sourdough bread I have to say I love it and the 49'rs that brought the delicious starter here to California! Sourdough bread is a multi-million dollar business here and around the world so how could sour be bad??
24hourcookin
Jeanie B. Borden - Dec 1, 2010
I make all the bread my family eats. The smell is usually all through my house. My two teenage sons would rather have a slice of warm bread with cheese, than a slice of cake. I,also, made the "Best Carrot Cake Ever" for Thanksgiving and it was a hit with all. Thanks!