Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Fiona’s Wonderful Bread #BreadBakers

This classic wheat bread recipe makes two loaves of some of the best sandwich bread I’ve ever tasted. Approach it with confidence and it won’t let you down. 

Our new bread baking group
My friend, Renee and I have created a new blog group for bread bakers called, ahem, Bread Bakers. Pretty catchy, huh? As host of our inaugural month, Renee chose the theme Favorite Breads, so I want to share one with you that is special to our family, along with some memories of the dear woman who baked it, week in and week out for as long as I knew her. Make sure to scroll on down to the bottom of this post for links to the rest of the Favorite Breads and information on how to join the group.

The back story
If you’ve been reading along here for a while, you might already know the story of how I met my husband’s lovely father and his delightful wife, back in 1985. It’s a good one and this special bread is even mentioned there. Go have a quick read. I’ll wait here.

For those of you who already know the story of my first private airplane ride,
here's a photo of the happy couple on one of their visits to our home in Paris.

Okay. I almost called this Fi-Fish Bread because Fi-Fish was her nickname and that is what we called the wonderful bread that Fiona made with such ease and, I would even say, nonchalance. In a world where folks fret over baking with yeast, she made it look effortless. But, so as not to confuse you, my lovely readers, with visions of fishy bread, I decided to go with the title I put on the top of the hand scribbled notes, from when I watched and learned how to make it. Little did I know at the time, but that would be the last time I would see Fiona alive or taste her wonderful bread made by her own hands. So, let me add some advice here: Get that special family recipe! Get it now. We never know what the future holds.

As you can see, it's been used often through the years. This is the first time I've
actually quantified the amount of salt and sugar though. 

Fiona was a survivor. She’d been through the breast cancer wringer: Mastectomy, chemo and rough recovery. With her quick wit, positive outlook and indomitable spirit, we were pretty sure she could beat anything. But, in 2001, after a fabulous spring break week entertaining us all, she went in to the doctor to discuss a mass she’d felt in her abdomen, saying, “Can we get this taken care of before bikini season?” Classic Fiona. We had plans to meet again in the Channel Islands during the summer but, with the new chemo regime, she was unable to travel. We were told she was doing great. Turns out liver cancer is not so easily dislodged. We lost her in October that very same year, and my father-in-law died, one short but traumatic month later, of a broken heart.

Every time I make Fiona’s wonderful bread, I am reminded of the great times, sitting out on their balcony in Freeport, Grand Bahama, where a picnic lunch was always served in the fresh ocean breeze: An assortment of cheeses, green salad with Fiona's homemade vinaigrette, ripe tomato wedges and leftover cold beef or lamb roast, certainly some Branston Pickle, all with thin slices of Fi-Fish bread and chilled white wine. It is the perfect bread and those were perfect lunches.

I miss them. I miss it all.


2 1/4 cups or 530ml very warm water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 cups or 410g whole wheat flour
2 cups or 250g strong bread flour
One palm full or 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
One palm full or 1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 packets Fleischmann’s Rapid Rise yeast (1/2 oz or 14g total)

N.B.: The cup to gram converter I usually use at this link here, says that one cup of wheat flour is only 120g. I actually weighed mine and it was 137g so that is the measure I have used in the ingredients list. You can adjust the amount of bread flour you add to compensate. If the dough is starting to look dry, stop before you put it all in. If your dough is too sticky, add a little more than the prescribed amount.

Mix two of the cups or 275g brown flour with the salt, sugar and yeast, in a large mixing bowl and add in the warm water with the oil.

Mix well.

Add in the last of the brown flour and mix again.

Now add the bread flour in gradually, mixing thoroughly as you go. (See note above.) Just let the machine turn as you drop it in by spoonfuls, scraping the bowl down occasionally as you go.

Knead for several minutes on a floured surface, adding a bit more bread flour if necessary.

Put it in a greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Leave to rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to one hour. Fiona always put hers on top of the water heater in a little cupboard off the kitchen.

I tried to take the two photos at the same distance from the bowl so you could see how much this expanded!

Meanwhile, grease two loaf pans.

Punch the dough down and knead it again briefly.

Cut it the ball in two and roll each half into sausages. Tuck the ends under and place in the greased bread pans, tucked ends under and seam side down.

Before rising

Sprinkle flour on top and cover with a damp tea cloth. Let rise for 40 minutes in a warm place.

After rising

When the time is almost up, preheat your oven to 400°F or 200°C.

Bake the loaves in your preheated oven for 20 minutes.

Just out of the oven!

Tip the loaves out onto a wire rack to cool.



First some thank yous!
Since this is our first group post, let me add a plug in for - and a thank you to - the designer of our Bread Baker logo, Dai Foldes. See more of his beautiful work at DaiFoldes.com.

Many thanks to Renee from Magnolia Days for hosting this inaugural month of Bread Bakers! And thank you to our dozen bakers this month. You all jumped on board with such enthusiasm that it's been quite contagious! I hope all of your favorite breads will inspire everyone to get into the kitchen and bake!

And now THE LIST!

About Bread Bakers
#BreadBakers is a group of bread loving bakers who get together once a month to bake bread with a common ingredient or theme.  Follow our Pinterest board right here. Links are also updated each month on this home page.

We take turns hosting each month and choosing the theme/ingredient.

If you are a food blogger and would like to join us, just send me an email with your blog URL to foodlustpeoplelove@gmail.com.

Here's to more fresh bread in months to come!

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