Saturday, January 8, 2011

Holiday Neglect & Bread Recipe

So I was on Christmas vacation, and I didn't post. Oh well. Here is a bread recipe to make up for it...

Basic Bread
Makes about 2-3 loaves, depending on your pan.
2 1/2 teaspoons dried yeast
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 lukewarm water (not too hot, or you’ll kill the yeast!)
Mix these three together in a bowl big enough to easily fit about 4 cups of water. (It’ll make mixing easier, later).
Melt approximately a half a cup of butter/margarine in the microwave and set aside to cool. The original recipe calls for lard, I think, but not too many have lard just lying around. This butter amount is pretty flexible… you can use less or more, depending on your choice. Butter is fat and fat feeds yeast, so using a lot of butter will probably shorten the amount of time it takes to rise, but will also make the bread richer. If you’re using salted butter you probably will want to cut the amount of salt you add in the dry ingredients. If you’re using a lot of salted butter, take out the salt entirely.
In a big bowl, mix:
8 cups of flour. I usually use about 50-50 bread flour and all purpose. If you want whole-wheat try something like 70-30 allpurpose/bread and whole wheat. Whole wheat flour is more dense, so keep that in mind… you don’t want to use just whole wheat flour or it could end up more like a rock than bread. Also, if you don’t have bread flour, no worries, it will still be good with regular ol’ AP.
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
1/2 cup of sugar
Stir those all together nicely. If you want it to be a sweeter, more breakfast-y type bread, add a little more sugar. (I think 2/3rds of a cup would be nice if you want breakfast bread (breadfast?), but I haven’t tried it).
Now go back to the bowl with the yeast.
Crack in one egg
add 2 cups of lukewarm water
and add the previously melted and now cool-ish butter.
Stir that together so the egg is relatively well mixed, then pour it into your dry ingredients. Mix it all up. At first you can use a spoon, but it’s easier to use your hands. The dough should naturally ball together… if there’s a lot of flour in the bottom of the bowl that won’t mix in, add more water. If it gets too sticky, add more flour.
Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and kneed for about ten minutes.
Kneeding is fun. The dough should begin to feel smoother and more elastic as you work with it (the gluten is lengthening! mwahaha). To kneed:
Press the heels of your hands into the dough, pushing it away from you.
Take the ‘top’ end of the dough (furthest away from you), and fold it down towards you.
Turn the dough 1/4 turn counter-clockwise (or any way you want, so long as you turn it haha).
Repeat steps one through three.
The longer you work the dough, the longer and stretchier the gluten strands get. These gluten strands allow the dough to hold the tiny air bubbles formed by the yeast, and so the final bread product will have a nice crumb. :) 10 minutes is the standard recommended amount.
Then let your dough sit in a warm-ish not-drafty place for about 1-2 hours or so. The bread shouldn’t get to be more than double in bulk… or you risk it collapsing. If you need to speed the rising process:
  • You can add more fat (butter) or more sugar… these feed yeast.
  • Or, without altering the recipe… Turn your oven on low heat for about 2-3 minutes. Then turn it off and quick slide the bowl of dough in, without letting the heat escape. The heat is not enough to cook the bread, but it will make the yeast more active.
Once it’s done the first rise, gently kneed it for only a minute or so, to get rid of any huge air bubbles. divide it into pieces about the same size as your loaf pan, or into smaller pieces, if you want buns. Put one piece in each loaf pan. (Or whatever) And allow to rise again, again about an hour or two. If you only have one loaf pan, you can throw the other pieces into the fridge to slow the rising process or the freezer for later use (just remember that they have to have the 2nd rise after they come out of the freezer or fridge!).
Pre-heat your oven to 400 F.
When the bread is risen, pop it in the oven, for about 10 minutes, then turn the heat down to 375F and bake for a remaining 20-ish minutes.
Bread is done when it comes out of the pan and sounds hollow if you knock on the bottom.

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