Onion Dill Bread

Mamacita, over at The Weekly Scheiss, has been waxing poetic about real, homemade bread.  She shuns the bread machine in favor of the “huge bowl,” and “measuring with your eyes and the palm of your hand.”  (I have to say that I gently disagree with her a tiny bit here; I have a bread machine and, while I don’t use it often, I can say that it’s a godsend when I’ve got a busy weekend afternoon but I want real bread with dinner.  I really do see her point, but I’m not willing to chuck the bread machine, either).

All that talk about kneading and rising got ME waxing poetic about real, homemade bread, so I’m posting for you my most favoritest bread recipe ever; Onion Dill Bread.  I believe I received this recipe from my grandmother (she of the blueberry quick bread) and it’s never, ever let me down.  My favorite way to eat it is the next day (and the day after, and the day after that…if it lasts that long), toasted with just a little too much butter melted over, but you’re welcome to nosh in any way that moves you.

There’s really no secret to learning to bake bread; it’s just a matter of practicing and getting a literal feel for the process.  For this recipe, before I do ANYTHING else, I make sure that I’ve got a wide swath of countertop that’s clear and clean, clean, clean, then I gather up 1 package of dry yeast which I put into a nice bath of 1/4 cup of warm water.  Set that aside to bubble and froth, and measure out 1 cup of cottage cheese (again, I use part-skim here, but again, that’s mostly because of the texture.  You can certainly use the full fat version; you will find that your bread has a moister texture than what you’ll get at my house, but I like the denser, dryer loaf that comes with the low fat stuff).  Now, spin it for a few seconds in the microwave or warm it gently over the stove; you want to get the refrigerator chill off of the cottage cheese.  While it’s warming, get 2 tablespoons of white sugar, 1 unbeaten egg, 2 and 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tablespoon of minced onion (I always use more than a tablespoon – closer to two or three – and sometimes I’ll use dried onion flakes (though I’ll use less if I’m going exclusively with dried; they pack a bit of a different punch that can be overwhelming in great quantities), or a combination of fresh and dried), 1 tablespoon of soft butter, 2 tablespoons of dill (I always use dried because I literally never have any fresh dill around; if you’ve got fresh, by all means use it), 1 teaspoon of salt (I like coarse salt in this application), and 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda.  Pour in the water and yeast, dump in the warmed cottage cheese, and mix the whole thing together with a sturdy wooden spoon.

Dust your swath of counter with some flour (be generous; this starts out as very sticky batter) and turn the lump of dough out.  Flour your hands well, and start kneading.

Now, it’s my observation that most people don’t like to bake bread because they’re intimidated by the art of kneading.  How do I do it?  How long should I do it?  What if I’m doing it wrong? (Gee, sounds like something else we used to be intimidated by, doesn’t it…?)  Well, like that other thing, we find that kneading gets infinitely better and more satisfying with practice.  My own personal technique involves pushing out through the center of the dough ball with the heels of both my hands, then reaching under and dragging the bit that’s farthest away from me back over and heading back up the middle.  I turn the dough every so often, so that every bit gets a good thumping (and, with this dough, you don’t have to tiptoe; give it a good, hard, deep-tissue massage).  Eventually, you’ll establish a rhythm and the dough will start to FEEL different; smoother (though, with this recipe, the onions and cottage cheese assure that it’ll never be truly smooth) and – I don’t know how to say this in a way that makes sense to anyone who’s not kneaded bread dough before – but it will just feel right.  When this happens, pat the dough into something resembling a ball, cover it with the overturned bowl that it came from, and leave it there for about an hour (you can rub a little oil over it if you want, just to keep the surface from drying).

Come back after it’s had its little nap and give it another good kneading, though this session should take significantly less time than the first.  Divide the dough into whatever shapes you want to bake it in (I usually just leave it in a free-form lump, but this recipe works well in loaf pans and even mini-loaf pans), cover it again (with either plastic or a damp kitchen towel), wait about 15 minutes, then crank your oven to 350.  When the oven is good and hot, you’re ready to start baking.

Depending on the size and shape of your loaf/loaves, you’re going to bake these either between 20-30 minutes (for little loaves or rolls) up to 40-45 minutes (for the artisan lump or loaf pans).  When the bread is baked (thump it with your fingers – it should sound deep), pop it out of the oven and, while it’s still warm (but not HOT – give it a few minutes to back off of its top temperature), brush the top with butter and sprinkle some coarse salt on top.

The best way to enjoy this is warm, whether it’s still warm from the oven or hot out of the toaster.  The smell of this bread is absolutely mind-blowing, and I’m hoping that you love it as much as I do.

Yum!

(note; this is not my picture.  I’ll replace this with a shot of my own bread after I bake a loaf… maybe this weekend!)

7 Responses to “Onion Dill Bread”

  1. Betty Crowder Says:

    This sounds just tooooo good! Is there any way the recipe could be adjusted for a bread machine? I absolutely hate to knead dough. I know some people find it to be therapeutic, but it frustrates me to no end.

  2. mrschili Says:

    Yeah; fussing with bread is not for everyone; I totally get that. This recipe absolutely works in the bread machine, though; just dump all the wet stuff on the bottom and all the dry stuff on the top and push the button!

    Happy eating!

  3. The Best Basic Bread « In the Kitchen with Chili Says:

    […] swath of counter top with flour, dust up your hands, and start kneading.  I described the process here – at least, the way *I* do it – but I think that kneading is an art you have to figure out for […]

  4. Lori Says:

    This is an old blog….but I just found it…and love it! I just have a comment on the whole bread machine thing.

    I have a beach house and fresh bread is not ‘nearby’. If your gonna have soup in the crockpot while you’re out fishing , the rules say you gotta have crusty bread (this may just be a guidline and not really a rule). But the Supreme Ruler (hubby) says the bread machine is cheating~ OK whatever.

    Enter the ol’ bread machine switch-a-roo. I use it ‘just to make the dough’ toss it on the cookie sheet while I’m firing up the blender. Hot bread straight from the oven. Ta-Da!! Yeah, that’s how I roll.

    • Mrs. Chili Says:

      Lori, this is an old POST, but the blog is still up and running (though I’m not sure I’ve posted in a while, I DID double-check my carrot cake recipe yesterday as I was trying to remember the recipe on the fly).

      We got a bread machine for a wedding gift, but I used it so infrequently that it sort of corroded in the basement. Now that I’ve figured out bread by hand, though, I don’t really miss it. I used to do what you do, too – make the dough in the machine and cook it in the oven – but I did that not because I felt the machine was “cheating” (tell hubby that if he thinks it’s cheating, HE can make the bread by hand…) but because I’m fussy and I hated the weird- shaped loves with the paddle hole in the bottom, so I’d pop the dough into a real loaf pan and bake it that way.

      Really, I think of obtaining fresh bread the way I think of childbirth; everyone’s got their way of doing it and everyone thinks their way is right and you know what? It IS! because in the end, the goal is a healthy and happy baby AND mommy (or, in this case, a nice loaf of heaven on earth). Whatever it takes to get there is the right answer.

  5. Susan Says:

    Bless you for posting this. I can’t find my recipe and have all the ingredients out to make this bread, but wasn’t sure of the measurements. This is exactly the recipe that I’ve been making since the early seventies (got it from my aunt). Originally I was told that all I had to do was mix it up and let it rise twice, but I found that very unsatisfying. It was delicious, but the texture was porous, and, beside, I wanted to learn how to knead. So that’s what I did, and was rewarded with a delicious bread that also had (and has) a wonderful texture.

    I also add 2-3 Tablespoons of onion and a tad (okay, a lot) more butter.

    Thanks again!

    Susan

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