Thursday, July 22, 2010

Wanna Learn Something?

I can teach you how to make bread! It is cheaper than buying it AND there's no weird ingredients!
Ready? OKAY!
Get all your junk together. This recipe was adapted from the Joy of Cooking. I have a badass mixer, but you CAN make this entirely by hand. 
First, take 2 1/4 teaspoons (or one package) of yeast and sprinkle it over 1 cup of hot water (I just use a measuring cup). Add a pinch of sugar. The water and sugar will feed the yeast and get it all nice and foamy. If your yeast doesn't foam, GET SOME NEW YEAST!
Mix together in a large bowl (the bowl of your mixer, if using):
2 cups flour-I use all-purpose unbleached, but you can use any kind you like...bread flour, wheat flour, whatever tickles you. 
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt (I use kosher salt because that's what I have on hand)
Stir all that together. By now your yeast should be nice and foamy. 
Melt 2 tablespoons butter. I stick it in the microwave for a little less than a minute. 
Pour the yeasty water and melted butter into your dry ingredients. 

This is what it looks like at the beginning. Sticky, wet, nothing like bread dough. I do recommend making this by hand at least once so you get the 'feel' of how the dough changes. Its pretty cool. 

Measure out another cup and a half of flour and start adding, spoonful by spoonful:

See how it is getting less sticky? This is where I switch to the dough hook. If you are making this by hand, this is where you would dump it onto a floured surface and start kneading. Great for aggression. 
Dough hook. Flour. You get it. You want the dough to NOT BE STICKY. 
Give the mixing paddle to your weird little kid who tries to convince you that raw bread dough is yummy:

This is what you are going for: clean sides of bowl, dough that creeps up the hook. See how it has changed? If you are using your hands you will totally feel a difference. 
The amount of flour is a guideline. Some days you will need more, some days a little less. Try to err on the side of less, but this is a learning experience. Knead with the dough hook on speed 2 for about 10 minutes. Or, until a fingerpoked dent quickly fills back in. 
Oil a large bowl and put the dough in. Flip the dough around so all the surfaces are oily. 

This will help it rise.
Put the bowl someplace warm and draft-free. 
I have a crazy-sunny balcony so I set it outside. You want to let it rise until it has doubled in size. If it is winter, you can turn on your oven to like 200 degrees and put the bowl on top. This rise can take anywhere from 30 minutes to am hour. Oh yeah, cover it with plastic wrap. You can also use a clean tea towel. 

See? Doubled!!!!
Punch that sucker down. 

Milo helped. 
Remove from bowl and flatten into a circle. 
 Usually the leftover oil is enough to make the dough NOT sticky. Resist the urge to add more flour. Try to keep your toddler's hands off the dough. 
Fold the sides in towards one another, making a rough rectangle.
Again, try to keep your toddler's hands away. 
Starting at the narrow end, roll that bad boy up. Pinch all your seams shut-this is important. If you don't pinch, your bread will have all kinds of weird annoying holes when you slice it. 

Tuck the ends under and put into a greased loaf pan. Make sure the shirt ends are touching the pan-this will support the loaf as it rises a second time. 

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise again until doubled. This will take about 30-45 minutes.
Thanks, Milo. 

This is a little over-risen. I left the house to run (what I thought would be) a super-short errand. It wasn't. Lesson: don't leave the house when you are making bread. Although you COULD let it rise overnight in the fridge, then wake up and let it come to room temp, set in the pan and go for the second rise. 
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees!!!
Bake for 10 minutes. This will give you a nice crust and a nice third mini-rise in the oven. SWEET!
Turn the oven down to 350 and let bake for 30 minutes. I recommend setting a timer and checking your bread. Ovens are different and you might have to adjust baking time. 
The best way to tell if your bread is ready is to take it out of the pan and knock on the bottom. If it sounds hollow, it is ready! 
Remove from pan and let cool on a rack

Tadah!!!! I have no idea why this is kind of upside-down. But see how the top (bottom, in the photo) isn't very high? That is because the dough over-rose and was too weak to support the top. I was kinda pissed because the previous loaf I made rose PERFECTLY.
Let it cool completely before you cut it. 
Now I have typed the word 'loaf' too many times. 
Have a good day everyone-I hope you bake some bread! Its rather satisfying, makes your house smell good and people are generally impressed when you do it. 

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