Post #471 The Newest Bread Trial

April 19, 2016 at 3:38 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Post #471 The Newest Bread Trial

So, if you read the last post, you know that I’m on the lookout for the perfect homemade bread.  I have pretty exacting criteria, but fairly easy on the surface.  They are:

  • Must be easy – and by easy, I mean easy for me
  • Must be a “high riser” – meaning I don’t want a flat loaf, but one that rises above the top of the pan
  • Must be tasty – I left the salt out of a recipe recently and got a very bland tasting loaf.  Didn’t finish it

So, I found the recipe below, and it looked intriguing, so today I made it.

It was easy enough.  One thing I’ve learned about bread making over time is that bread really doesn’t like to be manhandled.  Over mixing, or over kneading bread seems to make it tougher to eat.  Mixing things with machines seems to be the culprit.  Bread machine loaves have always been tougher to me.  Even cakes that I’ve made with the stand mixer have been less tender than those I’ve mixed by hand.

Another thing I learned today is leaving bread to bake even a couple of extra minutes will make for a tough crust.  Some people like a hearty bite to their bread, but I prefer to sink my teeth into a substantial slice, sturdy enough to hold any sandwich together without falling apart, but one that doesn’t tear up the inside of my mouth with sharp edges and crusts that pull away from the slice if I haven’t chomped all the way through it.

Sounds like I’ve given this a lot of thought, doesn’t it?  I have.

So, with today’s loaf, I followed the recipe to the letter.  Start to finish, it took about three and a half hours.  An hour after it came out of the pan, I was slicing into it to find out how it looked and how it tasted.  Wait, you didn’t know that you never, ever cut into hot bread?  Not even warm bread.  Check with Alton Brown for the scientific reason, but you shouldn’t do it.  Even in restaurants, the hot bread you’re served has been rewarmed in either a microwave or a warming oven.  The reason is because it’s not fully finished cooking when it comes out of the oven.  The escaping steam, and subsequent cooling of the loaf gives the interior its structure and sturdiness.  You’ve seen people who have served fresh bread that hasn’t cooled and found the interior to be gummy and squished together?  Now you know why.

The recipe is below, and I’ll add comments along the way.

First of all, if the recipe calls for a specific ingredient, it’s best to use that ingredient if you can.  I don’t always have bread flour on hand so I use all purpose flour (AP flour.)  In this instance, I used bread flour.  It has more of the wheat proteins to form gluten when water is added which forms the protein chains causing the elasticity giving the finished bread its strength of structure.  Long sentence, almost verbatim from Alton Brown, so there’s your science for the day.

Make certain all ingredients are at room temperature except those that specifically say to heat them or to cool them.  I store jars of yeast in the fridge and trust the warmth of the water to warm it in time.  I’ve just switched over to the individual packets for one important reason:  they remain fresh much longer without needing to be refrigerated.

It’s a good idea to have your ingredients pre-measure before you start since your hands are likely to get messy.

homemade bread

Basic White Bread Recipe

  • 1 cup milk
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 2 packages active dry yeast  [oops, I only used one but it turned out fine.  wonder how high it’ll rise next time I make it!]
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 cup of warm water
  • 6-7 cups of unbleached bread flour

Heat 1 cup of milk and 2 tbsp butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Remove from heat when the butter is melted. Set aside to cool.  [I warmed the milk  until half the butter was melted, then set aside.  While it was cooling, the rest of the butter melted completely.]

Pour 1/2 cup of warm water into a small bowl.  [Run you hot water tap until it starts to steam.  This is the ideal temp for bread making.  Also, I used a one cup glass measuring cup with a handle to make pouring it out easier.]  Slowly pour yeast into bowl while stirring. The constant stirring while adding the yeast will prevent the dry yeast from clumping. Set the bowl of yeast water aside for about 5 minutes while you work on the next 2 steps. [This is a brilliant idea.  So simple, I wonder why I never thought of it!]

In a large bowl, add sugar, salt, and 1 cup of warm water. Mix.

Check the small saucepan of milk and butter. If the contents are warm to the touch, pour the liquid into the large bowl and mix.

Pour the yeast water into the large bowl. It is important that the batter is warm, not boiling hot. Hot liquid, such as the milk you heated up, will kill the dry yeast and prevent the bread from rising. [Remember, yeast is a living creature and mistreating it won’t do you any favors.]

Begin mixing in the unbleached bread flour, one cup at a time. By the fifth cup of flour, the dough will begin to get stiff and it will be difficult to mix it with the wooden spoon. Turn dough out onto a floured board and begin to knead the dough. Continue adding more flour and kneading the flour into the dough until the dough is smooth, not sticky.  [Bread dough will tell you when it’s ready.  Use a lot of flour on your hands at the beginning, but as the kneading process continues, you’ll use less until the dough stops sticking to anything but itself.  For me, it took ten minutes to get the other two cups incorporated.  Check out Youtube for a demo on the kneading process.]

Next, grease a large bowl with butter. Put the bread dough into the bowl and then turn the dough over so that the top of the dough is now buttered. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise at room temperature until double in size or about 1 hour.  [I’ve said this before, but your oven is the perfect bread rising box.  Just don’t turn it on!]

Punch down dough. Turn it out onto a floured board and knead out all the bubbles for about 5 minutes.  [Make sure you go the full five minutes.  Use a timer if necessary.  The dough will get so smooth.]  Divide the dough in half and form each half into a loaf by rolling the dough into a rectangle. Roll the dough up like a jellyroll. Pinch seam closed. Pinch and tuck edges under the loaf.  [Measure your rectangle against your loaf pan so it will fit.  The short side should be the same measurement as the pan’s length.  A general measurement is 7″x14″.]

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter two loaf pans. Spread a light layer of yellow cornmeal on the loaf pans, if desired. Set loaves in pans, cover with kitchen towel, and allow to rise until double in size or for about a half hour.

Bake bread for about 45 minutes or until golden brown. Remove bread from oven and turn out loaves onto a rack or a clean kitchen towel. Allow to cool before cutting.  [I baked my loaf for the full 45 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through.  The crust came out tough, but edible.  Next time, I’ll check it at 35 minutes.]

Here’s the finished product:

homemade bread 2

This recipe makes two loaves.  I didn’t make two loaves since we can’t eat that much bread before it spoils.  I rolled the dough out, and shaped it.  Then I wrapped it in plastic wrap that I’d sprayed with butter spray and froze it.  When I want another fresh loaf, I’ll unwrap it and put it into the loaf pan to thaw out and rise.

So, my overall assessment is this is a success.  It’s a tiny bit more of a time investment than I’d prefer, but I have other bread recipes that will work easier if pressed for time.


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