Sunday, April 15, 2012
I acquired this recipe from a friend many years ago and have made it many times over the years. When a co-worker told me she's never had fresh baked homemade bread I knew this would be the recipe I'd make for her. It's such an easy recipe to make and bake. If you’ve never made a loaf of bread but really want to try it, this is the recipe for you. There are only five simple ingredients and the instructions are super simple too! And when you see the results of your efforts, you’ll be so happy you tried it too! When it comes to baking anything I’ll always give the same advice, make sure your ingredients are fresh or still in a use by date. Ready? Let’s get started!
Ingredients - Makes one 9 x 5 inch loaf
1-3/4 teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
1 teaspoon Sugar
1/4 cup warm water (between 105° and 115°F)
4-1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (20 ¼ oz)
2-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1-1/4 plus 2 tablespoons cool water (11 oz)
In a small bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and warm water, stirring with a fork to dissolve the yeast. Let it stand for about 3 minutes. In a large mixing bowl mix together the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture followed by the cool water. Using your hands mix the dough into a sticky ball. When it’s thoroughly incorporated, move it to a lightly floured work surface and knead for about 4 minutes.
(If you’ve never kneaded dough, simply use your hands to press the dough down to a rectangular shape. I put one hand on top of the other and use my body weight to press down. Then just fold it in half and press it down again. Turn it over and fold it in half again and press it down. Kneading is simply fold and press, turn it a quarter turn and fold and press, turning over every other time or so. No one is judging you on this so have fun with it.)
Place the dough into a lightly flour bowl, cover it with a towel and let it rest for about 20 minutes. By allowing the dough to rest after 4 minutes of kneading you’ll find when you work it again the texture will be very different and easier to work! And the taste and texture of the finished loaf is better because it’s not been overworked! I usually set mine in the dehydrator or the microwave or the cool oven to keep curious fingers away from it. I also like to control the temperature of my dough so sitting it inside of an appliance keeps the fluctuating air temperature and humidity away from my dough. At this point I usually start a second loaf following the instructions above. I’ve found it’s always easiest to make a few at a time than to make a mess for just one loaf. You can freeze the dough for about 6 months. Then when you want a quicker loaf of bread, you thaw it and follow the instructions from this point on. The second loaf I made this time is going to my co-worker so I’ve taken it to this point and into the second knead and rise and then put it into the pan for her to finish so she can enjoy the experience.
Take your rested dough and return it to the lightly floured work surface and knead it for 7 to 8 minutes. You’ll find that the dough is no longer really sticky but is smooth and supple to work with. Place the dough into a large, lightly floured bowl and cover with a towel for about 2-1/2 hours until it doubles in volume. Again I put it into a draft-free area for this rise.
Get your 9 x 5 inch bread pans out and lightly oil them. I prefer to use organic coconut oil but butter works here as does olive oil or vegetable oil. Again, my preference is also to use a piece of parchment paper inside my loaf pan which I also lightly oil. I find that it makes removal of the bread easier and it makes clean up of the pan easier too! This loaf will pop out pretty easy without the parchment but its habit with me to use it every time I bake. J
Place the dough on a very lightly floured surface and gently deflate the dough. Pat it into a rectangle with the short side facing you. Fold the top edge down and the bottom edge up letting them overlap slightly. Turn the quarter turn and fold again, top edge down, bottom edge up overlapping slightly. Now you’ll fold it into a log shape. Starting at the top edge, fold the top third of the dough over itself with one hand. Press the seam to seal it with the heel of your hand. Fold the dough one third of the way down again and work from one end to the other to seal the seam. Repeat this process one or two more times until you’ve got a nice round log shape. Seal the seam completely with the heel of your hand. You want this to look like a log that will fit nicely into your loaf pan. If dough is protruding from the ends of your log poke them back in with your fingers. Place the log into your lightly oiled pan with the seam side down. Gently press the loaf down to spread it to fill the corners of your pan and cover it with a lightly oiled plastic wrap. I place the oiled plastic wrap right onto the top of the loaf but don’t attach the wrap to the pan. This allows the loaf to complete its final rise which should take between 1 and 1-1/2 hours to do in a draft free area. You should see a rise about an inch above the sides of the loaf pan or more.
Pre-heat your oven to 425°F. Place your rack in the center of the oven. On the bottom rack put a pan with about a 1/2 inch of water in it. Let that preheat with your oven. Do not add your loaf until the oven is at temperature for at least 10 minutes.
Gently place the loaf pan on the center rack. Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 400°F for 30 minutes longer. Resist the urge to open the oven door. Your bread loaf will come out a deep golden brown and will feel somewhat hollow when you tap lightly on it. Place the loaf on a wire rack to cool.
Use a knife with a serrated blade to slice this bread. I always turn it on its side to slice. Serve warm with butter! Yum!J Allow to cool completely before storing. I’ve found that my microwave oven makes an awesome bread box!