I baked bread! I baked bread!
To appreciate this fact, you have to appreciate that I have avoided baking bread for ever. It was sort of like how I used to insist on buying $4 lattes every morning instead of getting a coffee maker: I finally took the plunge and wondered what I had been thinking.
Same with bread. It’s daunting to bake. You have to deal with something alive. Something called yeast, which is apparently a finicky little bitch – don’t get it too hot, don’t get it too cold, feed it sugar, let it rise on its own schedule, etc.
Martha metaphorically held my hand through this process with a simple white sandwich bread recipe in her recent Valentine’s Day issue (recipe to come).
The recipe had all of six ingredients, I figured it would be a cinch to make. It also cost me less than a dollar.
After mixing the flour, yeast, water, salt and honey together, I kneaded it for five minutes of tactile heaven. Then, it rose and I punched it down, put it in these buttered bread pans and it rose again. I dusted one loaf with flour, for a rustic look, and brushed the other with melted butter.
It only baked for 25 minutes in my stupid oven, but all was well:
Jesse couldn’t wait until it cooled before slicing a piece. They came out with a nice, thin crust and a light, airy bread within. I cannot wait to make myself a PB sammie with Skippy’s creamy peanut butter!
Classic white bread —
2 envelopes dry yeast (1 T plus 1 1/2 tsp)
2 1/4 c. warm water (110 degrees)
3 T plus 2 tsp honey
4 T unsalted butter, melted, plus more for brushing
7 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 T coarse salt
Sprinkle yeast over 1/2 c. water. Add 2 tsp honey and whisk to dissolve yeast. Let stand until foamy, at least 5 min. (there will be a sizeable “head” of foam in the bowl, like an inch high). Transfer to bowl of a mixer with hook attachment. Add butter and remaining water and honey.
In a separate bowl, whisk flour with salt. Add 3 c. to the yeast and mix on slow until mostly smooth. Add remaining flour, 1 c. at a time, mixing until dough comes away from the sides. Butter a large bowl.
Knead dough on floured surface for five min. It will be smooth and elastic. Shape into a ball and place in buttered bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in warm place for at least 1 hour, or until it doubles in size.
Butter two rectangle bread pans. Punch down dough, then divide it in half. Fold the long sides to the middle, pinching to seal, so you have one nice, smooth side. Place dough in pans with smooth side up. Brush each loaf with butter or sprinkle with flour.
Preheat oven to 450. Loosely cover doughs with plastic wrap and set on TOP of oven to rise again, at least another hour. The dough should rise an inch above the pan edge. Reduce oven temp. to 400 and put loaves in. Bake, rotating after 25 minutes, until tops are golden, 45 min (or less!). Transfer to wire racks, cool slightly, then remove from pans. Let cool completely, slice and enjoy!