Lightly spoon flour into measuring cup; level off. In large bowl, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, salt and yeast; blend well. In small saucepan, heat water and oil until very warm (120-130 degrees F. ). Add warm liquid to flour mixture. Blend at low speed until moistened; beat 3 minutes at medium speed. Stir in additional 3 1/2-4 cups flour, until dough pulls cleanly away from sides of bowl. On floured surface, knead dough until smooth and elastic, about 10 mins. Place dough in greased bowl; cover loosely with plastic wrap and cloth towel. Let rise in warm place (80-85 degrees F. ) until light and doubled in size, about 1-1/2 hrs. Punch down dough several times to remove air bubbles. Allow to rest on board covered with inverted bowl for 14 mins. Shape as desired.
SHAPING OF BREADS
6 SMALL LOAVES: Grease 6 6x3" loaf pans. Or, if desired, grease two cookie sheets to make free form loaves. Divide dough into 6 parts. Remove air pockets by working dough with hands and rolling into 6 10x5" rectangles. Starting from shorter side, roll up, pinching edges firmly to seal. For free-form loaves, taper ends slightly. Place seam-side-down on prepared pan. Cover; let rise in warm place until light and double in size, about 45 mins. Heat over to 375 degrees F. Bake for 25-35 mins. , until loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped. Remove from pans immediately. Cool on wire racks.
6 SMALL BRAIDS: Grease 2 cookie sheets. Divide dough into 6 parts. Remove air pockets by working dough with hands. Roll each part into an 6x3" rectangle. Cut each rectangle lengthwise into 3 6x1" strips. Braid strips together, tuck ends under and seal. Repeat with remaining dough. Place on prepared cookie sheets. Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 45 mins. Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 25-35 mins. until loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped. Remove from pans immediately; cool on wire racks.
TO DECORATE: Make small 1/2" slit in top crust of each loaf; insert shinny copper penny. Tie loaves with ribbon and decorate with small sheaf of wheat or other grain, dried flowers, silk flours or dried berries. Attach friendship note which will follow on last note.
TO PRESERVE BREAD: Allow loaves to dry in cook dry place for several days until VERY HARD. Spray or brush clear, glossy polyurethane or spray clear, glossy resin around loaf. Let dry; repeat with second coat. When dry, decorate as desired.
TIP: Loaves may be brushed with mixture of 1 egg white and 1 tbsp. water before baking. If desired, sprinkle with sesame or poppy seed.
For crusty topped loaves, set small pan of water in oven while bread is baking.
FRIENDSHIP POEM: "A penny for happy thoughts, Grains that grow and nourish, Leavenings to lift us up, May friendship ever flourish. "These lovely friendship loaves were inspired by the "Begger's Rhyme" of unknown origin. . . "Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, please put a penny in the old man's hat, If you haven't got a penny, a ha'penny will do, If you haven't got a ha'penny--God Bless You!" This special message to accompany your gift breads (the Friendship Poem), is sure to spread the feeling of warm friendship and good will.
I have never tried this recipe. It comes from my "Pillsbury Festive Holiday Recipes" cookbook, Classic #13. Marilyn Sultar