Bread – Perfect Every Time

I've been home sick for two and a half days now.  Though it's great to have the option to stay home from work and rest up, my body just doesn't handle sitting around on my butt very well.  I get restless and twitchy after a few hours and feel like I have to do things (even though I should be enjoying the fact that I can watch Star Trek for 10 hours in a row).  Yesterday I gave my roommate my metropass so I wouldn't leave the house but by noon my legs were already feeling bored.  What better chance, then, to try out a recipe from the New York Times Natural Foods Cookbook!

It was snowing and presumably cold outside so sickie little me decided to try my hand at baking bread.  I've always wanted to try to bake bread, but the task has always seemed so daunting!  Yeast and rising and kneading…these were way more steps than "Just add water".  I found a recipe on page 263 called "Bread – Perfect Every Time" and decided there was no way I could mess it up.  So I bundled and headed to the store to buy ingredients and loaf pans. 

$32 dollars later (uh, there were some good sales on at the store) I was ready!

Bread – Perfect Every Time
2 1/2 tsp sea salt
Oil (I used some EVOO but then thought I should've probably used Sunflower oil. Tasted fine.)
2 tbsp honey
2C skim milk, scalded
1 tbsp dry active yeast
3 tbsp lukewarm water
6 C sifted whole wheat pastry flour, or unbleached white flour
Butter (optional)

Two 8 1/2 x 4 1/4 loaf pans (ungreased)

Yields two loaves

Step one: Google how to scald milk
(you heat it up slowly until it's almost boiling but not quite. Something about killing bacteria. Lots of websites said this step wasn't really needed anymore since we pasteurize now, but I did it anyways JUST IN CASE)

Real Step One: Place salt, honey and 3 tbsp oil in a bowl. Pour milk over the mixture and allow to cool to lukewarm 
(the cooling willl take longer than you thought. Apparently.)

Step Two: Dissolve the yeast into the water and add to the cooled milk mixture

Step Three:Stir in enough flour to make a stiff dough (I used just under 6 cups) and knead on a floured board/kitchen counter for about 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and elastic

Step Four: Place dough in an oiled bowl and brush the top lightly with oil.  Cover with a tea towel and let sit in a warm place to rise so that it doubles in size (two hours).  Dough is ready when you press lightly with your finger and an indent is left.

Step Five: Punch dough down, fold and turn so smooth side is on top. Let sit, covered, for another half an hour.

Step Six: Divide in two pieces on your floury counter and let sit, covered, for another 10 minutes.

Step Seven: Roll/pat dough until it is twice the size of your pan. Fold the sides in and throw it in your pan.  Cover pans and let sit until doubled again, about an hour.

Step Eight: Bake for 35-40 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  Bread is ready when you tap it and it sounds hollow.  Pop the loaves out and allow to cool on a rack.  For a softer crust, brush melted butter all over.

Step Nine: Cut a huge chunk of hot, fresh bread and throw delicious butter on it and eat it.  

Repeat step nine as needed.

And there we have it!  Baking bread was SO easy!  The hardest thing was finding a free day, since the whole process takes a few hours to do.  
This really isn't going to help with my "let's see if I can cut out gluten and carbs for a while!" experiment.

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