Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 15, 2010

Foodie With Family: Break bread, pass it

Local columnist

---- — Thanksgiving always has and always will equal bread in my brain. As a bread-loving child, it was my dream holiday. Rolls (at least two kinds, sometimes more) and stuffing and bread and pie (I count crust in the bread category); I started looking forward to the next Thanksgiving as soon as I licked the butter stuck to my fingers from the last crescent roll.

I have clear memories of my mother and grandmother mixing, kneading, forming and baking crescent rolls, honey potato wheat rolls, and loaf after loaf of bread. I stood by not-so-patiently while the yeasty aroma of baking bread drifted out of the oven. I watched as they tucked the finished bread lovingly into baskets and covered it with cloth napkins to keep it warm. I waited on the edge of my seat as everyone gathered around the table and talked about what made them thankful. Food, family and shelter. Yes, yes. Bread, please! Turkey? Bah. Mashed whats? I wanted breadstuffs. I wanted lots of them very quickly. When the prayer was done and the platters were passed, somehow the breadbasket always ended up by my elbow. I still don't know how they managed, but the basket never emptied despite my best efforts.

It's my turn to fill the breadbasket now. I'm grateful for all of the blessings in my life: food, shelter, and — most importantly — family. And the bread. I'm still thankful for the bread.

This first recipe I'm sharing is one of my favorite fast breads. It is a yeast-bread that is done in under an hour from start to finish. It is wonderful served sliced, toasted, as sandwich bread, or cubed up in a big pan of stuffing. If you slide a fried egg between a couple slices of toasted One-Hour Dilly Potato Bread you're in for a big treat, especially if hot sauce and cheddar cheese are involved.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

One Hour Dilly Potato Bread

5&½ c. all-purpose flour (1 lb., 7 ozs. by weight)

2 T. instant yeast (also known as Bread Machine Yeast)

2 T. sugar

1 T. kosher salt (if using table salt, reduce to 1 ½ teaspoons)

2 T. mashed potato flakes

2 T. dried onion flakes

2 t. dried dill seed (not dill weed)

½ t. dried dill weed

2 c. very warm water (about 120°)

2 T. unsalted butter, softened, plus additional melted butter for brushing the finished loaves

• Mixing the dough by stand mixer (my preferred method):

Combine flour, instant yeast, sugar, salt, mashed potato flakes, dried onion flakes, dill seed and dill weed in the bowl of the stand mixer that has been fitted with a dough hook. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds.

Add the butter, and then with mixer running on low, slowly pour in the water. Continue mixing on low until the dough comes together and becomes smooth, about 4 minutes. Remove bowl from the stand mixer, scraping any dough that remains on the dough hook into the bowl. Pull dough from bowl with your hands and form a smooth dough ball. Replace in bowl, cover with a clean tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes.

• Mixing the dough by food processor:

Combine flour, instant yeast, sugar, salt, mashed potato flakes, dried onion flakes, dill seed and dill weed in the bowl of a food processor that has been fitted with a blade or dough blade. Pulse 10 times. With the food processor running, add the water and butter into the feed chute. Continue processing until the dough forms a cohesive ball. Spin the dough ball 20 times and shut off the food processor. Remove the dough, form a smooth dough ball and place in a lightly oiled mixing bowl. Cover with a clean tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes.

• Mixing the dough by hand:

Combine flour, instant yeast, sugar, salt, mashed potato flakes, dried onion flakes, dill seed and dill weed with a whisk or fork in a large mixing bowl. Add the warm water and butter into the flour mixture and use a sturdy spoon to combine into a shaggy dough. Use your hands to knead for 8 minutes*. After kneading for 8 minutes, cover the bowl with a clean tea towel and let rise in a warm place for 15 minutes.

*If you find it difficult to knead in the bowl, you can turn the dough out onto a clean surface to knead it. After kneading, just return the dough to the bowl and allow it to rise as instructed above.

• Divide the dough

Whatever method used, after rising, turn dough out onto a clean surface and divide in half. Form each half into a ball and place 5-6 inches apart on a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or a silpat, or has been lightly greased. Use a sharp knife to slash the top of the loaf about ¼ inch deep. This allows the steam to escape the baking loaf.

• To bake the loaves:

Arrange the racks in your cold oven so that one rack is on the very bottom and one is positioned in the center of the oven. Place the baking sheet with the loaves on the center rack and a bread or cake pan that is full of very hot tap water on the bottom rack. Close the oven and turn your oven on to 400°. It is imperative that you start this in a cold oven! Set your timer for 40 minutes. Those 40 minutes are all that stand between you and fresh bread.

The crust should be a deep brown and quite firm when you remove the loaves from the oven. Transfer the loaves to a rack, brush with additional melted butter, and cool completely before slicing. Makes two loaves.

I want to share one of my family's most treasured recipes; my Grandma Shaffer's Buttermilk Cornbread. This is far and away the best cornbread I have ever eaten in my life. It is the standard by which I judge all other cornbreads. Once you've tried a wedge or square of this with a dripping pat of butter melting over the edges you'll understand my devotion. If cornbread dressing is in your plans this Thanksgiving, look no further than this perfect cornbread. (The recipe for Grandma Shaffer's Cornbread Dressing can be found at

Grandma Shaffer's Buttermilk Cornbread

½ c. all-purpose flour

1&½ c. yellow cornmeal (not self-rising)

¾ t. baking soda

2 t. baking powder

1&½ T. sugar

1 t. salt

2 eggs, lightly beaten

3 T. melted unsalted butter

1&¼ c. cultured buttermilk (do not substitute vinegar soured milk.)

Preheat oven to 425°.

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, baking soda and powder, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Whisk together the eggs, butter and buttermilk in a separate bowl. Pour the liquids into the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. While you don't need to over beat this, you don't want to have large pockets of dry cornmeal in your batter. This cornbread doesn't need to be babied, though, so do mix well.

Pour the batter into a greased 9-by-10-inch baking pan (or greased muffin tins, if preferred.) Bake 30 minutes (or 25 for muffin tins) or until a knife, toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. The cornbread should have a deep, rich brown color on top. Don't worry about letting this cool before eating. Warm cornbread is a balm for weary souls. Apply butter generously! Makes one 9-by-10-inch baking pan full of cornbread

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