Freshly–made bread complements summer

Do you dedicate these steamy dog days of summer to eating fresh from the garden? Granted our garden is just an 8 foot by 16 foot raised timber bed, but it easily gets our “most appreciated home improvement” award.

For me, eating from the garden means a daily regiment of fresh tomato sandwiches. We expanded our experimentation this year adding yellow Roma, Garden Peach, Cherokee purple, Anna Banana Russian and Polish Linguisa tomato plants. Our Striped Hollow variety has proven interesting stuffed with tuna or egg salad.

Mary Perko, in Helena’s Falliston neighborhood, plans her backyard garden to bloom all season and especially likes having fresh herbs on hand. Cooking healthy is important to Mary and she shares my appreciation for tomato sandwiches, even going so far as to bring me a loaf of her homemade bread that, I can attest, really improves upon a classic.

Mary, who was raised in Minnesota says, “I grew up with a mother that made all of our bread and pasta. My brothers and sisters have all tried to follow that tradition. I frequently make King Arthur’s Traditional Whole Wheat Bread and White Bread 101.”

The following is the recipe for White Bread 101 from the King Arthur Flour Cookbook (It makes two loaves):

5 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (or combination of all purpose white and whole–wheat flour

2 teaspoon yeast

2 1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoon sugar

3 tablespoon honey

8 tablespoon soft butter

1/2 cup dry milk

1/2 cup potato flakes (plain)

1 to 1 3/4 cups wheat germ

2–3 eggs

2 1/4 cups water

In a small bowl, combine yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar in 1/3 cup water warm to touch. In mixer stir flours, salt, other tablespoon sugar, dry milk, potato flakes and wheat germ together. Add yeast mixture when it bubbles, followed by eggs and water, warmed honey and butter. Mix. The resulting mixture should be smooth and soft, not too sticky. Knead for 5-10 minutes. Put dough in greased bowl covered with saran wrap and let rise until it doubles in size –- about one hour. Punch down and shape for 8.5 x 4.5 loaf pan. Let rise again until double. Preheat oven to 350 degrees; bake for 35-40 minutes.

Mary passes along her family-honored rules for bread baking:

Use a thermometer to test if bread is baked through –– 190 degrees for most loaves, 210 degrees for heavier denser loaves.

Don’t shortchange your rising time. The longer the rise, the more intense the flavor.

Always knead the bread –– it will talk to you.

Need to go somewhere? Put the dough in the fridge –– it will rise slowly. Let it come to room temperature before punching it down and shaping for pans.

Always make two loaves as the first loaf may be eaten right out of the oven!