Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bread and Jam, a Double Post From Scratch

Every week I buy a 3-pack of strawberries from the farmer's market. They are super-sweet and very ripe right now, so I have to use them quickly. Last week, I had too many to eat before they were going to go over the edge into Slimeville. What to do, what to do? I could freeze them and use them for smoothies, or ...

Bread and strawberry jam - great with eggs for breakfast, or a nighttime sweet tooth snack. You can make both at home, today, without much fuss. Yes, there's more labor involved than just throwing some groceries in your basket, but it's worth it!

First, the bread. For some reason, I usually have a really difficult time working with yeast. But this bread baked up fluffy and hearty. I found the recipe on the Fleischmann's yeast web page, so the recipe I list below is based on that, with a few changes to fit my needs. If you've never made your own bread, this is the easiest recipe I could find, and I think it's a good place to start. Considering a loaf of sandwich bread can go for $4 nowadays, it might be worth your while to try baking your own.

The jam was even easier to make. I used a three-pack from the farmer's market, so I'm not sure exactly what the weight is (since they load those green plastic pint containers to the top.) It's worth it to buy organic strawberries, since commercial farmers spray the heck out of those little fellas. I included the instructions for canning the jam, and you can pick up mason jars and lids at the grocery store. Canned jars of jam will last a year or more - it's a total money-saver, especially if you have kids (mine eats jam on toast as often as you'll let her). If you don't can it, the jam needs to stay in the fridge. You'll have a lot, so pick up some plastic storage containers and share with friends! This recipe made five 8 oz. jars of jam to store in the pantry, plus about 16 ounces I am keeping in the fridge ... to eat on the bread!

Easy Wheat Bread
(based on this recipe:

  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour (you can use all-purpose if you don't have wheat)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 envelopes Fleischmann's RapidRise yeast
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  1. In the bowl of your electric mixer, stir together 2 cups of the flour, the sugar, yeast and salt. Use the dough hook attachment. (You can do this with just a bowl and a wooden spoon, but the electric mixer is much much easier!)
  2. Mix together the water, milk and butter and heat to 120*-130* F. Stir the liquid mixture into the dry mixture to combine. Beat for 2 minutes on medium and scrape the sides.
  3. Add another cup of flour and beat for 2 minutes on high, scraping down the sides. Keep adding flour, little by little, until the dough is soft and clings to the dough hook.
  4. Lightly flour a big cutting board or your counter and knead the dough for 8-10 minutes, until it is elastic and smooth. Put the dough in an oiled bowl and cover for 10 minutes to rise.
  5. Spray two loaf pans with Pam. Divide the dough in half. Flatten and stretch the dough into a 12"x7" rectangle, then, starting at a long end, roll up tightly like a jelly roll. Pinch the seams and place the rolls seam-side down in the pan. Cover and let rise until doubled in size, about an hour.
  6. Bake at 400*F for 25-30 minutes. The bread should sound hollow if you tap the top of it. Take the bread from the pans and let cool on racks.

Easy Strawberry Jam
(Courtesy Sure Jell)

  • 2 quarts ripe strawberries
  • 1 box Sure Jell (I found it on a high shelf in the baking aisle, by the cake mixes and spices)
  • 1/2 teaspoon butter
  • 7 cups sugar
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar (optional, but I like the depth of flavor it adds)
  1. Wash the canning jars, rings, and lids with hot soapy water. Put the empty jars in a tall pot of water - there should be at least an inch of water covering the top of the jars. Bring the water to a simmer, and keep the jars simmering until they are ready to be filled. Using a smaller pot, simmer the lids and rings on low until ready to use.
  2. Hull the strawberries. In the bottom of a pie plate, crush them with a potato masher (or a fork) and measure them, until you have 5 cups of berries. Put the berries in a large pot on the stove. Measure out 7 cups of sugar into a big bowl - you want to add the sugar all at once, so have it ready to go now.
  3. Stir the pectin, butter, and balsamic vinegar into the strawberries - make sure the pectin gets dissolved and that you don't have any clumps of pectin in the pot. Bring the mixture to a full rolling boil (that doesn't stop bubbling when stirred) on high heat, stirring constantly. Stir in the sugar, and return to a full rolling boil for one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat and skim off any foam with a metal spoon.
  4. Take the jars from the simmering water and pour out the water, but don't dry them. Ladle the jam into the jars, leaving 1/8" - 1/4" room at the top of the jar. Screw on the lids and put the jars back in the big pot of water. Make sure jars are covered by at least an inch of water; cover and simmer for ten minutes. Remove the jars from the water and place upright on a towel to cool completely. After the jars cool, check seals by pressing on the middle of the lid with your finger. If the lid springs back, it's not sealed and the jar needs to be refrigerated.

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