‘Tis the season. Well almost ‘tis the season. To make bread that is.
Time to fire up that big clunker of an oven sitting mostly unused in the kitchen and heat the house up.
This being my first time trying to bake bread, I went in very intimidated and thinking I was in for a poor result. If you’re like me, you have head from many different people, many different ways that bread is not an easy thing to make.
“It will come out of the oven a wheat brick” or, “it will be dense in some spots and fluffy in others.”
Pushing all those fears aside in the name of food column science, I dove in.
For my first loaf ever, I chose a simple white bread starter recipe. No marbled rye over here — yet.
As I was reading the instructions and gaining a basic lay of the land it all seemed eerily familiar. Where have I read instructions like this before? Then it hit me, it’s basically a yeastier version of pizza dough.
The ratios were different and you add some butter, but other than that all the basic steps to a good pizza dough are the same for bread. Come to think of it, it is probably the same across all kinds of breads that need to rise, with a different mix of ingredients.
Having spent the last year perfecting my pizza dough skills, I looked at making this loaf of bread with a newfound air of confidence. I dove and got to mixing my ingredients.
I quickly hit a snag — this recipe makes two loaves of bread, and I only have one pan that even semi-resembles what I need. But I had gone too far and now I have all this extra dough; what am I going to do?
So, in the name of food column science, I sliced it down into eight equal parts and make bread muffins. Ever have a bread muffin? It’s like getting the heel of the loaf but in 360 degrees. Not my bag, but if you’re into heels, I suggest you do it.
Back to the real bread. After I let it sit for 50 minutes or so, I plopped it in the oven and let the heat do its magic.
Surprisingly, It turned out to be spot on to what bread should look, feel, taste and smell like. I think it was a great jumping off point and nice to know if you are out of bread on a holiday when the stores are closed and craving a sandwich, you can make some. Otherwise, it is worth it to spend the money and buy some basic white bread.
Where I see the advantage in the future is making exotic breads that you can’t find or are expensive. So expect a column on that this winter sometime. Until then, try your hand at making some white bread and enjoy a nice PB&J this week!
Easy white bread
5 1/2 to 6 cups bread flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 packets yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1. Combine 2 cups flour and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and stir until blended. Combine warm water from the tap (hot to the touch), sugar and yeast in measuring cup. Let sit for a few minutes. Put the milk and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high until milk is warm and butter is partially melted. Add everything to mixing bowl.
2. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Add 1 cup flour; beat 2 minutes at high speed, scraping bowl occasionally. Stir in just enough remaining flour so that the dough will form into a ball.
3. Knead on a lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic and springs back when lightly pressed with two fingers, about 6 to 8 minutes. Cover with a towel; let rest for 10 minutes.
4. Cut dough into two equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a 12 x 7-inch rectangle using a rolling pin.
5. Beginning at short end of each rectangle, roll up tightly. Pinch seams and ends to seal. Place, seam sides down, in two 8-1/2 x 4-1/2 inch loaf pans that have been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Cover with towel; let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.
6. Bake in preheated 400ºF oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from pans by running a knife around the edges and invert onto a wire rack.