Country Hearth Bread
Makes 1 round or 2 oblong loaves
1 (1/4-ounce) package active dry yeast (about 1 tablespoon)
2 teaspoons sugar
1/4 cup warm water (105F to 115F, 40C to 45C)
1 pint milk (2 cups)
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons lard, butter or shortening, melted
5 to 5-1/2 cups unbleached bread or all-purpose flour
Grease a baking sheet or 2 (9" x 5") loaf pans. In a large bowl, combine yeast, sugar and warm water; stir. Let stand about 5 minutes or until yeast foams. Scald milk by heating almost to boiling point. Cool to 105F to 115F (40C to 45C) or until a few drops on your wrist feel warm. Add salt, warm milk and melted fat to yeast mixture.
Beat in 2 cups flour, beating until smooth. Add enough of remaining flour, a little at a time, until a stiff dough forms. Cover bowl and let rest 15 minutes. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured board. Knead, adding flour sparingly until dough is smooth and springy, about 10 minutes. Wash and oil bowl.
Place dough in bowl, turning to oil all sides. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, 1 to 1-1/2 hours. Punch down dough. Turn out onto board. Knead 30 seconds to squeeze out air bubbles. Shape into 1 large round loaf. Place on greased baking sheet. Or, divide dough into 2 parts and shape into 2 oblong
loaves. Fit into greased loaf pans, smooth-side up.
Cover and let rise until almost doubled, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Brush tops of loaves with milk; sprinkle with flour.
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until a wooden skewer inserted in bread comes out smoothly. Remove from pans. Cool on racks.
Swedish Rye Bread:
Add 1 tablespoon each caraway seed, anise seed and fennel seed to flour. Mix in grated peel of 1 orange. Substitute 2 cups rye flour for 2 cups all-purpose flour. Substitute 1/3 cup packed brown sugar or molasses for granulated sugar. Mix and let rise as above. Shape into 2 round loaves. Place dough, smooth-side up, in 2 greased, round, 9-inch cake pans. Let rise and bake as above.
Honey Whole-Wheat Bread:
Substitute 2 cups whole-wheat flour for 2 cups white flour. Substitute 2 tablespoons honey for sugar. Replace 1/2 cup milk with 2 eggs. Add 1/4 cup melted lard to dough instead of 2 tablespoons fat. Mix and let rise as above. Shape into 2 loaves. Place dough in 2 greased (9" x 5") loaf pans. Let rise and bake as above.
Substitute 1/2 cup light molasses for sugar and 2 cups uncooked rolled oats for 1 cup flour. Mix and let rise as above. Shape into 2 round loaves. Place dough, smooth-side up, in 2 greased, round, 9-inch cake pans. Let rise and bake as above.