Rembert Family Favorite Recipes
NANA'S POPPY SEED BREAD
I have developed the following method during some 30 years of making this bread. It takes 3 hours from start to finish. Of course, it may take longer the first time you do it. Try this way first and then go from there.
First, turn the oven on the lowest setting (150 deg). As soon as it is preheated, turn it off. Cut scant Ĺ stick margarine or butter into several pieces and put these into a standard size (2Ĺ qt.) mixing bowl. Put the bowl in the oven. I use the oven to make a cozy place for the yeast; if something else works better for you, thatís fine.
Next, assemble the following: mixer (I use a hand mixer), salt, yeast, wheat germ, oat bran (optional) and flour. King Arthur unbleached bread flour is the best I have used, but always use bread or unbleached regular flour.
When the margarine has melted, put 2 cups warm water and 2 tablespoons sugar into bowl. Stir. Test w/your finger. If nicely warm, but NOT hot, add 2 packs yeast, or two scant tablespoons if youíre using bulk yeast. Stir. In 2 min. or so it should start to bubble. If nothing happens, yeast is no good. Forget the whole thing until you go buy good yeast.
Add about 1 - 1Ĺ cups flour and mix carefully or it will splatter. Add a little more flour, enough so that it no longer splatters. When this is smooth, add 1 tablespoon salt, ľ cup wheat germ, ľ cup oat bran, a little flour and mix well. You may also use 1 or 2 cups of whole wheat flour if you wish. Add more flour, a little at a time, until dough starts to climb the beaters. Remove beaters and wash or soak in water.
Now add about 1 cup flour. Using a wooden spoon turned backwards, go around sides of bowl pushing flour into dough. Thatís so dough wonít get all over the spoon. Add more flour, a little at a time, until dough holds together and can be turned out of the bowl without making a mess. Turn it out onto a well-floured work surface. I just use my counter. Cover the dough with a clean cloth.
Scrape the bowl w/the wooden spoon and discard the scraps, but not in the sink or youíll have a sticky mess. Wash the bowl and dry. Put about 1 teaspoon of oil in bowl and put it back in the oven (which should still be turned OFF.
Now, knead the dough. If you donít know how, read directions in a good cookbook. One caution: add flour very carefully at this stage. Less and less is needed as you go along. At the end only a dusting is needed. Also, add flour to the counter under the dough, not to top of it. Too much flour will make the bread heavy. When it is kneaded enough, it should feel smooth and elastic.
Put the dough in the bowl and turn so that oil is on top. Cover this with wax paper and then your towel. Put back into oven. By this time oven should be just barely warm. If it feels at all hot, leave the door open. Let the dough rise until it has pushed the towel up in a nice mound, usually less than an hour. This point is not critical, but get it before it droops over the bowl.
Punch the dough down. Put it on lightly floured counter with side that was on bottom of bowl down first. Thatís not critical either, just a fine point to keep the top surface intact. Flatten it out with your hands. If youíre making French loaves, divide it into 2 or 3 parts; or pinch off 1/3 for a single loaf and make the rest into rolls. Next take each section and knead a little to force out air. Cover w/towel and let it rest while you do the following:
In small Tuperware container, mix 1 egg white, ľ tsp salt and 3 Tbl water; beat lightly with a fork. The egg white mixture will keep 2 weeks or so in the refrigerator and be enough for your next batch of bread.
Sprinkle corn meal on bread pan. Use dark cookie pan size, the heavier the better. I have a Belgian blue steel pan, which is wonderful, but I used a regular cookie sheet for years.
About 10 min. should now have elapsed. With rolling pin flatten out dough. If it seems too stiff, let it rest awhile longer. Pinch off a nice size piece, tuck edges under, and make a cut across the top using a bread knife. Keep the roll in your hand to make the cut. Arrange 4 rolls across in the pan. I do 5 rows down, making about 20 rolls total. If you end up w/one or two extra, squeeze them in.
Brush the rolls w/ the egg white mixture and sprinkle w/poppy seeds. Put the pan back in the oven. Turn the oven light on if oven seems chilly.
Let rise until doubled, 30-45 minutes. Rolls should now fill the pan and be touching.
Remove pan from oven and preheat to 425 deg. The oven rack should be in the middle of the oven.
Cook for 10 minutes (set timer). Remove and brush again w/ egg white mixture, working quickly so the rolls donít cool off too much. This brushing makes the rolls shine.
Reduce heat to 375 deg. (donít forget this!) Cook for another 10 Ė 13 minutes (set timer), until a deep golden brown.
Remove and put on racks to cool. However, slice and butter one immediately to eat. They are never as good as when they are fresh from the oven.
After the rolls are thoroughly cold, 3 hours or more, freeze them, unless youíre going to eat more that day.
Avoid putting the rolls in the microwave. It makes them tough. They thaw rather quickly at room temperature. For warm sandwiches slice and butter lightly, put in a frying pan, butter side down and heat. I use an electric pan set at 350. Then proceed, using sausage for breakfast, ham & cheese, leftover roast beef, steak, eye round, pork, etc. Hint: put your meat, cheese, on a dish and microwave 30 seconds and then put on the roll which you have grilled.
From Nana's Kitchen, (B. Rembert), 2001