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Grandma Mertz Bread: The recipe

The Grandma Bread Recipe (August 14, 2013):

Picture 4

Mix together:

  • 3 cups water (120 degrees F)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 2 packets dry yeast
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 T salt

until combined.  Add:

  • 4 c bread flour (either Robinhood or Gold Medal) until it’s all absorbed, and then another:
  • 4 c bread flour, and continue to mix, probably with your hands, until that’s all absorbed.

Cover that with a towel and let it rise at room temp for 10 minutes, then punch it down with your knuckles, kind of punching your hands together. Let it rise under a towel for 10 minutes, then;

  • Punch it down 4 more times, every 10 minutes.
  • Punch it down one last time (so you punch it down a total of six times–every 10 minutes for an hour), lightly flour the counter, and then roll the whole batch of dough out into a giant flat like a pizza, about 4×4 feet.
  • Cut that flat into quarters.
  • Shape and roll each quarter into a tight loaf that’s about 18 inches long, and tighten it on the ends. Score three or four lines across the top of each loaf.
  • Cover them with a towel and let them rise for an hour and a half in a warm, draft-free area.

Dust a baking sheet with cornmeal and transfer loaves to sheet. Bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees F. Remove from the sheet when they come out of the oven and brush with melted butter (if you like the crust soft. Grandad likes it crustier and crispier, the only problem with that is that when you slice it the crust sometimes falls off).

So this is the recipe we know works. Because we can’t help ourselves and we always want to play, we’ve also considered trying different things with this recipe, like:

  • cooking with convection
  • scoring after proofing instead of before
  • brushing with egg white before baking

But for now, we recommend just doing it the way Grandma always has 🙂

Note: One thing we did try playing with was refrigerating and freezing the dough. If you really want fresh bread on a Wednesday, by any chance, but you only have time to make and punch down and shape all this dough on Sunday, we tried refrigerating and freezing some of the dough after we shaped it but before it had risen at all. We found that if you put the dough in the refrigerator the night before you want to bake it, you can take it out and let it rise for an hour and bake it off the day you want to eat it, and it comes out just as fresh. You can also put it in the freezer until the night before you want it, transfer it to the refrigerator the night before, and do the same. The freshness seems to have the most to do with the day you bake it, and very little to do with the day you mix it. That being said, I probably wouldn’t recommend freezing it for any more than a week.