Thursday, April 8, 2010

Mmmm,...Fresh Bread...

I'm happy to say I'm no longer afraid of bread...After that successful Focaccia, and another one last week(didn't post it due to lack of good pictures...), I'm now totally hooked! I still have a lot to learn but from now on I'll bake my own bread. It's so much nicer to have home made bread where you know EXACTLY what's in it, as opposed to the grocery store's perfect-looking loaves but less-than-perfect ingredient list...And it's so gratifing to make, say a simple grilled cheese sandwich with bread that YOU made. I love it. And also the taste is incomparable.

So, lately I've been searching a lot of websites for easy recipes, looked through some books, even got one as a present from a team mate(Thanx Mary!:)) I found some very interesting info and this website ,
where I got this recipe. It's one of the easiest and versatile.
Here it goes:

For 2 loaves(I only made one, so I cut the ingredients in half...)

6-6 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, or half whole wheat half AP, which is what I did.
*if you use ALL whole wheat flour it's be REALLY dense. The AP softens it a bit...
3 TBSP sugar
2 envelopes RapidRise Yeast(1 envelope=2 1/4 tsp)
2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
2 TBSP butter

First of all, mesure the ingredients, if using 2 kinds of flour keep them in 2 different bowls. In another bowl combine 2 1/2 cup flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. Heat the water, milk and butter until it hits 120F, no more than 130F. Gradually add this mix to the flour&yeast mix and stir.(If you have a stand mixer, good for you, do it in the mixer...but I used a fork and it worked fine. Again...think of all the french boulangers in the 19th century who never had mixers...)
So when it starts feeling like a batter add more flour, 1/2 cup at a time, alternating whole wheat and AP if you chose that route. This is where I ditch the fork and use my hands. Nothing like a little manual labor!! So, when it starts to feel like a dough take it out of the bowl on a lightly floured surface and knead, knead, knead, addding flour as necessary(i didn't use all the flour required), and knead until the dough gets to the consistency of an ear lobe(i don't remember where I heard this...but it's a good tip...). Cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes(time to clean up a bit and get the loaf pan ready...). Oh, and divide it in half, if you're making the full recipe.
Roll each half into approximately a 12x7in rectangle. At one of the shorter end, start rolling tighly as if making jelly rolls. Pinch the ends and tuck underneath. Place in a 8x4 or 9x5* oiled loaf pan, seam down, cover loosely and let it rise in a warm place for 1- 1 1/2 hour, until doubled in size. I find that turning the oven on at 170F(the lowest on mine)and putting the pan on the cheminee(top right burner) works great.
(*for half of this recipe I find my 9x5 pan is a little too big, the dough doesn't rise above the rim, but it still makes a good bread. I guess a smaller pan would make a taller loaf).


Bake at 400F for 30 minutes, in the middle of the oven. An instant thermometer will read 190-200F at the centre, or if you dont have a thermometer tap the top if it sounds hollow it's done.
Take out of the pan immediately and cool on a rack.

This bread makes great toasts, the crust gets really, um...crusty...and the inside stays moist. Tastes great with nothing on it, but even better with butter.

Cheers, and start baking!

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