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The Breads of Summer

September 02, 1993|NICK MALGIERI

Labor Day is upon us, marking the end of summer. And though baking bread doesn't come immediately to mind in a list of typical warm-weather activities, summer's twilight is actually a great time for it.

Bread dough itself is low in fat and, therefore, easy to handle when the kitchen is warm. And that same warm air promotes the quick growth of yeast, cutting down on waiting time for both the dough and the formed loaf to rise. These breads will emerge from the oven about two hours after you begin mixing--about as fast as you can get. Finally, breads bake relatively quickly, and the oven is on for a minimum of time, adding less heat to the house.

The recipes here use a food processor for speed and ease of mixing. If you want to mix dough by hand, place the ingredients in a mixing bowl instead of a food processor bowl and stir to mix. Rub in the butter, if called for in the recipe, between the palms of your hands until the butter is no longer visible in the dough, then add liquid and stir with a rubber spatula to evenly moisten the flour.

Cover the bowl and allow to stand five minutes. Then stir the dough with a wooden spoon until smooth and fairly elastic, or scrape dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, about one minute for each process. Return the kneaded dough to a bowl, cover and allow to rise as in the individual recipes.

After a loaf is baked and cooled, keep the loaf loosely covered at room temperature for up to 24 hours. For longer storage or advance preparation, wrap and freeze bread, then reheat briefly at 350 degrees before serving.

Home-baked bread may sound like a lot of trouble, but if you try it once, you'll break the packaged-bread habit forever.

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Despite its form, this pan-baked loaf is nothing like the cottony bread of industrial bakers.

OLD-FASHIONED WHITE BREAD 3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar 1 cup warm water (about 110 degrees) 1 teaspoon dry yeast 2 tablespoons melted butter, olive oil or vegetable oil

Combine flour, salt and sugar in work bowl of food processor and pulse several times to combine.

Place warm water in another bowl and whisk in yeast, then butter. Add mixture to ingredients in work bowl. Pulse 6 to 8 times to form ball of dough. Let processor run continuously 30 seconds.

Butter or oil mixing bowl and scrape dough into bowl. Cover bowl and let dough rise until double in bulk, about 1 hour.

Butter 8x4-inch loaf pan. Scrape risen dough from bowl to floured work surface. Press dough with palms of hands to deflate. To form loaf, stretch dough into rough rectangle, then fold in short ends until dough is about length of pan. Then fold far long edge down to middle, continuing to fold and roll to form tight cylinder. Place loaf in pan, seam side down. Cover loaf with plastic wrap and let rise until double, about 1 hour.

When loaf is completely risen, place on middle rack of 375-degree oven and immediately lower temperature to 350 degrees. Bake until well risen and firm to touch, 30 to 40 minutes. Internal temperature of bread will be about 210 degrees when done. Unmold loaf to rack to cool. Makes 1 loaf or 6 to 8 servings.

Variations:

Part Whole-Wheat Bread: Substitute 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour for 1/2 cup white flour. Substitute honey for sugar, if desired.

Cinnamon-Raisin Bread: Just before forming loaf, knead 1 cup dark or golden raisins into dough. Press dough into rectangle and brush with 1 teaspoon melted butter. Sprinkle dough with 1 teaspoon sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, then roll up tightly and place in pan.

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Though this sounds more like cake than bread, it is not too sweet and makes a perfect breakfast or brunch bread.

CHOCOLATE-ORANGE BREAD 1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees) 2 teaspoons dry yeast Unbleached all-purpose flour 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder 3 tablespoons sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/4 cup milk 1 egg

Make sponge by placing warm water in small bowl and whisking in yeast. Stir in 1/2 cup flour. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside until well risen and doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Finish dough by combining 2 1/4 cups flour, cocoa, sugar, salt, orange zest and cinnamon in work bowl of food processor and pulse until mixed. Add butter and continue to pulse until mixture is fine powder with no visible pieces of butter. Add milk, egg and risen sponge and pulse until mixture forms ball. Let processor run continuously 15 seconds.

Place dough in buttered bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Allow dough to rise until double in bulk, about 1 hour.

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