Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Bread should be a common food. Bread should be cheap to make and delicious to eat, and most of all, bread should be worth the effort. Too many yeast-raised recipes aren't worth the time and energy, not to mention the intimidation factor, 'cause way too many people are scared to work with yeasted doughs in the first place, afraid that they'll screw them up.
As for yeasted doughs, a little knowledge goes a long way. But that doesn't mean that you have to pick the most difficult recipe to get a good result.
Take this one, for instance. "Baking Illustrated" promised a good, basic white sandwich bread in just a couple of hours. Did it deliver? Well, I'll admit that I may have overbaked it a bit, and I'll admit that perhaps the long-risen kind has a better texture and somewhat more yeasty flavor. Still, this recipe's pretty good, and the savings in time and energy definitely make it worth making again. This might just be the recipe that converts me to becoming a weekly bread-baker.
White Sandwich Bread
From "Baking Illustrated"
3 3/4 c flour, plus more for the counter
2 tsp salt
1 c warm whole milk
1/3 warm water
2 tbsp butter, melted
3 tbsp honey
1 envelope instant (rapid-rise) yeast
1. Turn your oven on to 200 degrees. Let it pre-heat, then, after it's at 200 for a few minutes, turn it off.
2. Meanwhile, whisk 3 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt together in a large bowl.
3. In another bowl, mix together the milk, water, butter and honey. Take the temperature of your mixture if you're not sure what "warm" is -- it should be 110 degrees. Once you've checked the temperature, mix in the yeast.
4. Mix the wet stuff into the dry stuff. If you've got a stand mixer with a dough hook, use it. Me, I used a big wooden spoon and lots of elbow grease. If the dough seems really sticky after you've got it all mixed, add in up to a 1/4 cup of flour.
5. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth. Form into a ball.
6. Place in a big, lightly oiled bowl. Flip it over, so all of the outside gets a little bit of oil on it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pop it into the warm oven and let it double in size -- this will take 40-50 minutes or so.
7. Take out the dough, turn it out onto your counter and flatten it into a rectangle that's 9 inches wide (the length of your 9-by-5 bread pan). Roll the dough up into a log, starting at one of the 9-inch sides, then pinch the seam closed. Turn it over so it's seam-side down and place it in your greased loaf pan, pressing down so it touches all of the sides and corners of the pan.
8. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled, 20-30 minutes.
9. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and place a small pan of hot water inside (not underneath where your loaf will be).
10. Bake your loaf about 40-50 minutes, until a thermometer reads 195 degrees in the center of the loaf. De-pan and cool on a rack.