Quite frankly there are few smells that make me happier than freshly baked bread. The blend of yeast and flour brings back memories of my grandma's kitchen. Grandma is the one who taught me much about bread baking. More importantly she and my mom both stressed the importance of understanding the science behind baking. Both were home economics education ISU grads and they both know their baked goods. Experimenting with various ingredients and eliciting the proper chemical reactions were key to yummy products. OK, there were times growing up we suffered through an experiment gone bad (but those were rare)!
Grandma is my inspiration whenever I bake bread for competition or just for fun. Her rolls are legendary in my family and her key for those was good old fashioned lard (I have a freezer full from our pigs we raised last summer). She also loved experimenting with different flours which is really an enjoyable way to create new flavors. Grandma passed away during the Iowa State Fair two years ago - so for that reason I have decided to take one of her recipes in competition each year.
I must say the bread competition is probably one of my very favorites at the Iowa State Fair. This year my mini goal is to enter a bread exhibit in each class of either the yeast roll or the yeast bread divisions. This is a tough goal since timing is everything. You want it as fresh as possible (in most cases) and yet you have a large number of entries to get done that each take 3 or more hours to complete. Don't worry I have a plan in mind!
After last year's ISF, I decided I needed to bake a loaf of bread each week to gain more experience. I have done pretty well. In addition, I usually do pizza dough every other week and rolls at least once per month. I am a bit behind this week. Normally, Monday is bread day, but I just got around to making a loaf today. Tomorrow I plan to make hot cross buns! Hot Cross Buns are a family tradition that trace back to at least my grandma and probably beyond. I usually use my grandma's recipe but this year I found a new recipe I would like to try. It will probably end up that I combine the two recipes to create something new. This is one of my tendencies - find two or more recipes for the same item and figure out how to combine them and create something even yummier. The key is to keep the chemical reactions from the measurements of the ingredients still working properly.
My family has saved a lot of money this year by baking our own bread instead of purchasing it at the store. I also believe, it is better for my little boys to have bread that I know the ingredients and the nutritional value of rather than something full of preservatives off the shelf. They both love bread - especially my 10 month old - I have never seen a little one gobble something up so fast! There have been weeks when a second loaf mid-week has been necessary! Thanks to my mom and dad for the wonderful gift of a bread machine at Christmas time! They got me a top of the line Zirijoshi (not sure on the spelling will have to check that). No, it's not cheating to let the bread rise in a machine on the dough setting- it actually makes a much better loaf since the temperature is kept regulated. Now for baking you're much better off using the dough setting and then forming and letting rise on the counter and baking in the oven. It's amazing!
This weekend I have also had a special request from my husband to make my onion hamburger buns for pork burgers. They are quite yummy if I do say so myself. They won in the class of hamburger buns last year at the ISF so you know they are blue ribbon delicious. Sorry, no recipes until after the fair. I have decided some keys I'll keep to myself - but after I exhibit I promise to post my ribbon winning recipes.
Go bake some bread already! That's what I'll be working on this weekend!