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Fragrant & Flavorsome

March 17, 1985|BETSY BALSLEY

Among the pluses of more-sensible eating is an emphasis on fiber and complex carbohydrates. And that, to many, translates into the guilt-free enjoyment of the wonderful fragrances and flavors of home-baked breads--earthy, peasant-type breads that are loaded with real texture. Dark breads, light breads, breads made with whole wheat, rye or other sturdy grains. Breads that get additional flavor from caraway or cornmeal or a tad of sour cream.

There's more to baking bread at home than merely savoring the first slice. Most bakers find tactile satisfaction in the simple, hands-on kneading of bread dough. And when the scent of the baking bread begins to permeate the house, chances are that everyone in the vicinity will immediately gravitate to the kitchen.

If you've never baked bread, don't hesitate to try. As long as your yeast is fresh, your spirit willing and your hands strong enough to knead the dough until it is visibly satiny and elastic, you'll have no problems--other than that of keeping hungry hangers-on at bay until your bread has had a chance to cool. Bread-baking is like that, exuding an almost irresistible invitation to sample "at once." PUMPERNICKEL BREAD

9 cups all-purpose flour 3 cups rye flour 2 tablespoons salt 1 cup whole bran cereal 3/4 cup yellow cornmeal 2 packages dry yeast 3 1/2 cups water cup dark molasses 2 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate 1 tablespoon butter or margarine 2 cups mashed potatoes at room temperature 2 teaspoons caraway seeds

Combine all-purpose and rye flours. Mix 2 cups flour mixture, salt, cereal, cornmeal and yeast in large bowl. Combine water, molasses, chocolate and melt. Gradually add to flour mixture and beat 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Add potatoes and 1 cup flour mixture or enough flour to make a thick batter. Beat at high speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in caraway seeds and enough additional flour mixture to make a soft dough.

Turn out onto a lightly floured board. Cover dough with bowl and let rest 15 minutes. Knead until smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes. Place dough in greased bowl, turning to grease all sides. Cover and let rise in warm place, free from drafts until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour. Punch dough down and let rise again 30 minutes.

Punch dough down again and turn out onto lightly floured board. Divide into 3 equal parts and shape into round balls. Place balls in 3 greased 8- or 9-inch round cake pans. Cover and let rise in warm place free from drafts until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees 50 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on wire racks. Makes 3 loaves. REFRIGERATOR FRENCH BREAD 6 cups flour, about 2 tablespoons sugar 1 tablespoon salt 2 envelopes dry yeast 3 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened 2 cups very hot tap water Cornmeal Oil 1 egg white 1 tablespoon cold water

Thoroughly combine 2 cups flour, sugar, salt and undissolved yeast in large bowl. Add softened butter and gradually add hot water. Beat at medium speed of electric mixer 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in enough flour to make soft dough. Turn onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Cover and let rest 20 minutes. Punch dough down and divide into halves. Shape each portion into 10x15-inch rectangle.

Beginning at long side, roll up tightly, pinching edges to seal. Taper ends by rolling loaf back and forth. Sprinkle a large greased baking sheet with cornmeal and place loaves on pan. Brush tops with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate 2 to 24 hours.

When ready to bake, remove loaves from refrigerator and carefully remove plastic wrap. Let stand 10 minutes at room temperature. Puncture any air bubbles that have formed with wood pick or skewer. Make four diagonal cuts across top of each loaf with sharp knife. Bake loaves at 450 degrees 25 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with egg white mixed with cold water. Bake 5 minutes longer. Makes 2 loaves. PAIN DE FROMAGE 1 package dry yeast cup lukewarm water 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon sugar 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened cup brandy 5 eggs 5 cups flour, about 1/2 cup shredded Bonbel cheese 1/2 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese Kosher salt Caraway seeds

Dissolve yeast in lukewarm water. Stir in salt, sugar, butter, brandy and 4 well-beaten eggs. Beat in half of flour. Stir in cheeses and beat in enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead dough on lightly floured board until smooth and elastic. Place in bowl and let rise, covered, in warm place until doubled in bulk. Punch dough down. Knead again on floured board, then cut into 3 equal pieces.

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