Cook's Exchange: Bread bakers rise to occasion to help reader

April 23, 2014 

Jane Ogurek needs to make sure that her oven is preheated before she places the pans in the oven.

At least that is what bread rising help Sandra Johnson is offering.

Ogurek asked for help when the second rise on her homemade bread was not rising like it should. She proofed the yeast, so she knew that was not the problem. Ogurek had baked bread for years, but then stopped during an illness. She is back at it but needs a little help.

"She should not open the oven door to 'peek' while the bread is baking," Johnson said.

Another reader, Sandy Delia, also has some advice.

"When I bake my sourdough bread, I preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake on the lowest rack in the oven. This brings the top of the loaf pan to the middle of the oven," Delia said. "This works well for me. Also, I bake the loaves for about 27 to 28 minutes."

I did a bit of research, too. I like to bake bread, but I have my share of hits and misses, too. I checked with the folks at Red Star Yeast and my Taste of Home and Better Homes & Gardens cookbooks for more suggestions. I also offer a couple of my favorite bread recipes that Ogurek and other readers can try.

"Many doughs will have a second rising, which is in the pan. The second rising, or proofing, gives a better volume, a more mellow yeast flavor and a finer texture to breads," according to Red Star Yeast. These are the company's suggestions on ways to rise breads. These are taken from www.redstaryeast.com.

Oven rising

The oven is an ideal

place for rising.

For an electric oven or a gas oven with the electronic ignition, heat the oven at the lowest setting for 1 to 2 minutes, then turn it off. Once your loaf is shaped and in a pan (if you're using one), cover the dough and let it rise again in a warm place. This time, let it rise just until nearly double in size. If dough doesn't double in size for this second rise, your bread will rise higher when baking (this is called "oven spring").

In gas ovens, the pilot light will provide enough warmth, so you don't need to turn it on at all. The oven temperature should not exceed 90 degrees during the rising time. Place a pan of very warm water toward the back of the oven to provide moisture, which keeps the dough soft during rising. Place the covered bowl or pan of dough on the center rack and close the door.

Microwave rising

The microwave oven also can be used for the first rising of doughs. Place 1 cup of water in a glass measuring cup in the microwave. Heat on high for 2 minutes. This creates a moist environment to keep the dough soft during rising. Place covered bowl of dough in microwave and close the door.

Warming drawer rising

Put 1 cup of very hot water in a glass measuring cup or small bowl in warming drawer. This adds moisture and will keep the dough soft during rising. Turn knob to low or "proof." Place covered bowl of dough in warming drawer and close door.

From Better Homes & Gardens: "Once your loaf is shaped and in a pan (if you're using one), cover the dough and let it rise again in a warm place. This time, let it rise just until nearly double in size. If dough doesn't double in size for this second rise, your bread will rise higher when baking (this is called "oven spring").

GOLDEN SESAME BREAD

1 package (1/4 ounce) active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)

1- 1/2 cups warm water (110 to 115 degrees)

1/4 cup shortening

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon salt

4 eggs

7 to 8 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon cold water

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

In a mixing bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Add the milk, shortening, sugar, salt, 3 eggs and 4 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6 to 8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top.

Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch down dough. Turn onto lightly floured surface; divide in half. Divide each portion into thirds.

Shape each piece into a 12-inch rope. Place the 3 ropes on greased baking pan; braid. Pinch ends to seal and tuck under. Repeat with remaining dough. Cover and let rise until doubled, about 45 minutes.

Beat remaining egg and cold water; brush over braids. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool. Yield: 2 loaves.

-- From "Best of Country Breads"

This bread makes great sandwiches.

SUNFLOWER BREAD

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup salted sunflower kernels, toasted

2 packages (1/4 ounce each) active dry yeast

2 teaspoons salt

1-1/4 cups water

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup honey

3 tablespoons butter or margarine

1 cup whole wheat flour

Additional salted sunflower kernels (optional)

In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups all-purpose flour, sunflower kernels, yeast and salt. In a saucepan, heat the water, milk, honey and butter to 120-130 degrees. Add to dry ingredients; beat until smooth. Beat in whole wheat flour. Stir in enough remaining all-purpose flour to form a soft dough.

Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down. Turn onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Shape into loaves. Roll loaves in additional sunflower kernels if desired. Place in 2 greased 8-by-4-by-2-inch loaf pans. Cover and let rise until doubled ab out 45 minutes.

Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans to wire racks to cool.

Yield: 2 loaves.

-- From "Best of Country Breads"

Some super soups

Barbara Anderson asked for a good vegetable soup recipe for her daughter-in-law who wanted ones.

Carolyn Kinabrew shares a vegetable soup recipe and two others that she says are good.

"This vegetable soup is a favorite of my family," Kinabrew said. "They can smell it cooking five miles away. During the cold winter months, we loved coming home from school, and my mother would have a big pot on cooking for supper. I always make enough to share with several people, too."

CAROLYN'S FAMILY VEGETABLE SOUP

1 (46-ounce) can tomato juice

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes

Butter beans to your taste

Green peas to your taste (I use a 15-ounce can)

1 (28-ounce) can whole corn niblets

1 large chopped onion

Sliced okra to taste

Diced white potatoes (about 3 large)

Meat of some type to flavor the soup mixture (deboned ribs, chuck roast, or you can even use hamburger, but it doesn't flavor as well)

Mix all ingredients and simmer for 1 hour or longer on medium heat. If you prefer a thinner soup, you can add water or more tomato juice.

-- Submitted by Carolyn Kinabrew

"This stuffed bell pepper soup was passed along to me by our daughter, Lori Mosher," Kinabrew said. "I don't know where the 'stuffed' comes in."

STUFFED BELL PEPPER SOUP

2 pounds of ground beef

1 onion, diced

1 green pepper, chopped

1 (29-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (29-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 cups beef broth

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1 tablespoon soy sauce

2 cups cooked rice (I serve ours over rice and do not put it in the soup)

Brown beef and drain. Combine all remaining ingredients (except rice) with the beef in slow cooker and simmer at least 1 hour on low (mine usually cooks at least 2 hours so the pepper and onions will get done).

This is very good when it is hot, but freezes well also.

-- Submitted by Carolyn Kinabrew

TAMALE SOUP

2 chopped onion

1 bell pepper, chopped

1 pound ground meat

2 cans whole kernel corn (do not drain)

2 cans ranch-style beans (do not drain)

1 can chopped Ro-tel tomatoes with liquid

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon cumin

2 cans tamales

Brown meat with bell pepper and onion, drain. Combine seasonings and other ingredients except tamales in large pot. Simmer 1 hour; cut tamales into 1-inch pieces and add to soup 15 minutes before serving.

-- Submitted by Carolyn Kinabrew

Andrea Yeager, who can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net, takes contributions or requests at Cook's Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

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