I made bread! Bread, bread, bread! Real, live, honest to God, yeasty bread!
Sorry, let me just calm down.
I’ve always had an irrational fear of making bread. I figured it was one of those things that required specialized skills to be able to master – perhaps an extra set of female chromosomes or something. At the very least, I figured I needed a bread lifter thing (what the hell is that called? made of wood? Like a big paddle?) or one of those pizza stone things. I didn’t think I could just toss it on a baking sheet and throw it in the oven, and yet oh – how wrong I was. Bread making is easy!
I used the following recipe, with a few simple modifications.
Crusty White Bread
- 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tablespoons margarine, softened
- 6 cups bread flour
- 1 tablespoon salt
- In a small mixing bowl, dissolve yeast and sugar in the warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast mixture with the milk, the butter or margarine, 4 cups of the flour and the salt; stir until well combined. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring well after each addition. When the dough has pulled together, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and supple, about 8 minutes.
- Lightly oil a large mixing bowl, place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover with a damp cloth and put in a warm place to rise until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
- Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into two equal pieces and form into loaves. Place the loaves into two lightly greased 9×5 inch loaf pans. Cover the loaves with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in volume, about 40 minutes.
- Mist loaves with water and bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) oven for 20 to 30 minutes or until the loaves are golden brown and the bottom of a loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
I didn’t have bread flour, just all purpose flour. I suffered through ten minutes of “should I drive and get some?” guilt, then said to hell with it.
Also, I didn’t knead this for anywhere near 8 minutes – try two minutes or so, tops. I split the dough into two balls, which I formed into sort of a flattened circular shape. I then dusted the bottoms with flour, and put each round onto one end of a baking sheet. I left them to rise by the fireplace.
When they were done raising, I brought the loaves upstairs and sprinkled each one with water, since I am apparently mister impaired (I was sure I had one, but in hindsight I think the puppies might have eaten it). I think sprinkled smoked sea salt on top of one loaf, just for fun.
I put a pan of water on the lowest baking rack, and the loaves on the middle one, where I let them bake for the recommened 20 – 30 minutes.
The crust is chewy, the interior is moist and dense, and the smoked sea salt adds a subtle flavor to the bread. Simply wonderful, and dead simple to make – no bread machine or pricey stand mixer required!