Post #394 Easy as Bread, Really

July 20, 2015 at 8:30 AM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #394 Easy as Bread, Really

My little brother always used to say that as long as he had bread in the house, he wasn’t going to starve.  He really likes the stuff, in almost any form.  One time, I watched him spreading mustard on a piece of bread and asked him what he was doing.  “I’m making a sandwich like the girl on the bread wrapper,” he said back.  I glanced at the wrapper of the Sunbeam bread he was eating.

Sunbeam Bread

“That’s butter, you doofus.”

He shrugged.  “I don’t care.  Mustard is good, too!”  And he wandered away with his mustard sandwich.  So of course, I had to try it.  Wasn’t bad, but the next time I made it, I put some cheese in it and it was really good.

I can’t say that I like bread as much as my brother, but I come close.  I’ve eaten bread all kinds of bread all over the world and I haven’t found one yet that I didn’t like.  Since I’ve stopped traveling, I don’t get the same breads anymore.  It’s hard to find a specialty bread shop that’s going to slap a piece of dough onto a embers or a hot rock and serve the resultant charred but deliciously steamy hunk of bread.

So I try to make different kinds of bread at home when I’ve got the time and inclination.  Seldom do those two requirements don’t often fall together on the same day.  I do make bread for the family.  All the time.  I’ve posted about the best sandwich buns in the world before and you can find the recipe on the list at the right side of the blog page.  The sandwich buns require the bread machine whose dough setting takes 90 minutes.  Then after shaping, the buns need to rise again for another hour before being baked, which adds another 30 minutes.  So start to finish, it’s about 3.5 hours when you add in the setup (taking the freaking machine out of its cubbyhole surrounded by other stuff, and getting the ingredients to room temp, etc.) and the clean up, and all that fun stuff.

But I’ve always had a small twinge that using the bread machine was somehow cheating.  I wasn’t putting my effort into the bread.  And as the Bible says, “By the sweat of they brow shalt thou eat bread.”

So I was always on the look out for a good bread recipe that would make a good, decent loaf in less time, and with some effort, but not a sweat breaking effort.  It wasn’t making me lose sleep or anything, but I did want to try my hand at an easy, start-to-finish, kneaded loaf of bread.  Part of the reason is that I find store-bought bread to be flimsy, lacking in flavor, and less rugged.  A knife and a pat of cold butter will destroy it.  Then I found it.

I don’t remember where I found it, and I’ve printed the recipe out, like, five times so I don’t lose it, and I’ve scanned the printout into my computer so I don’t lose it.  It makes a good, solid, reliable loaf of bread.  And it makes one loaf.  That was a problem with so many other recipes.  They made two, or four, or eight loaves.  And it’s difficult to pare that down to one loaf.  I don’t mind making one loaf, eating it, and making another.  It just guarantees that the bread won’t go to waste.  Matter of fact, the sandwich buns usually grew mold before we could finish them off.  I tried freezing them, but they lost something in the process.

So here it is:

The Best Bread Recipe I’ve Found So Far

  • 2 1/4 tsp yeast
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 3 cups sifted AP flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 egg (any size)
  • 1/4 cup flour for kneading and rolling

In a small bowl, dissolve sugar and yeast in 1/4 cup warm water.  Set aside for 5 minutes to activate the yeast.  It will be foamy when ready.  In a large bowl, sift 3 cups of all purpose flour (I have not yet tried this with bread flour so if you do, let me know how it turns out.)  Stir on tsp salt into sifted flour.  Add activated yeast and one cup warm water.  Stir with a sturdy wooden spoon until dough ball is formed.  Turn dough out onto a floured surface, remembering to flour your hands.  Knead for 5-7 minutes until dough is elastic and not sticky.  Add small amounts of flour to the surface you’re working on to add extra flour to dough.  In another bowl, spread tsp oil to coat evenly then place dough ball in bowl, turning to coat the dough evenly with oil.  Put in a warm area out of breezes (microwave or oven work perfectly for this, just make sure neither is on.)  Cover if needed with a clean dish towel.  Let rise until doubled, 45-50 minutes.  Punch down and return to resting area for another 30 minutes.  Punch it down again and return to resting area of another 10 minutes.  Turn out onto a floured surface and roll out to 7 by 14 rectangle.  Flour your rolling pin if dough sticks.  Starting from a narrow end, roll up the dough tightly.  Pinch the end of the dough together with the roll forming a seam.  Place dough into a loaf pan treated with cooking spray, seam side down.  Place loaf pan in a resting area for 30-40 minutes until doubled in size.  Heat your oven to 425.Beat the egg in a small bowl until completely broken and yellow.  Carefully brush egg onto top of loaf.  Bake loaf at 425 for 12 minutes.  Turn your oven down to 350 and bake for another 15 minutes.  Remove bread from oven and release from pan onto a clean dish towel. Cool the bread on a wire rack covered by the dish towel.  If you have no cooling rack, just cool completely wrapped in the dish towel.  The dish towel is to collect the steam and keep the bread from getting soggy.  Let the bread cool completely.  It should be room temperature to the touch before eating.  Slice and eat!

One variation I’ve tried is before rolling the bread up, I spread it with a dry mixture of 1/4 cup brown sugar and 1 tsp cinnamon.  Mix the two by hand until completely mixed and spread evenly on dough.  Roll up and bake as above.  You can also use white sugar if brown isn’t available.

I know it sounds complicated, but it’s really not.  In about 2 hours, the bread is done, start to finish.  There’s no complicated technique or equipment.  Just time.  Let me know how you fare if you try this, or have any questions.

And as always,

Enjoy

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