(mice? no...that was my daughter)
A couple of days ago I wrote that I'd baked some bread and that Alex had pronounced it "gooder than sushi." Those of you who know of my just-turned-six-years-old son's absolute passion for raw fish will understand that he can bestow no greater compliment on a food and its cook. Holly, at Phe/MOM/enon asked if I was going to post the recipe, and so here it is - later than I'd planned, (sorry Holly!) but at least I'm only late by a couple of days.
This bread recipe is from Bernard Clayton's pheNOMenal tome Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads. If you don't have any bread-baking books, and you want an incredibly comprehensive one, then go get this one. NOW!
Okay, you have your copy now, right?
I wanted to just make a basic white bread. Mr. Clayton starts you off with a chapter called "The First Loaf," in which you are taken, step by step, through the production of your (ostensibly) very first loaf of yeasted bread. I've made that one before, and I wanted to try something different, so I picked the first recipe in his "White Breads" chapter - one called "Thirty-Minute White Bread."
The recipe makes 2 loaves (baked in 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" loaf pans) and I doubled the recipe and ended up making 3 good-sized loaves in 9" x 5" pans.
This bread is made a little differently than the usual mix, knead, let rise, punch down, shape, let rise, and bake routine. Mr. Clayton writes:
The panned dough for this light and airy loaf is placed in a cold oven, the heat is turned on for 60 seconds and turned off, and then the dough is allowed to rise for exactly 30 minutes (hence, the name) before the oven heat is turned on. The dough rises only once (in the pan) before it is baked.
KitchenAid home economists created this loaf to demonstrate the ease of kneading with a dough hook. It can be done by hand, of course.
So, without further babbling, here is Mr. Clayton's recipe and instructions from pgs 42-44 of his book, along with my photos, and my italicized notes in parentheses. I urge you to give this recipe a try, particularly if you've never baked bread before - it's pretty easy and the smell alone as the bread bakes will fill you with pride. And hunger pangs.
Oh, and keep in mind that when I made this, I doubled the recipe, so the photos won't exactly correspond with the amounts given below.
THIRTY-MINUTE WHITE BREAD
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons vegetable shortening or butter
3 teaspoons salt
1 cup lukewarm water (105-115 F)
2 packages dry yeast
2 tablespoons sugar
6 to 7 cups bread or all-purpose flour, approximately
1 tablespoon butter, melted
Baking pans: 2 medium (8 1/2" x 4 1/2 ") loaf pans, greased or Teflon
By hand or mixer:
(I actually combined the water and milk and melted the butter in that, and then the sugar, and stirred it in my mixer bowl until it cooled down enough to add the yeast without killing it. I added the salt when I added the flour, once the yeast had bloomed.)
Stir in 2 cups flour and beat for 3 minutes at medium speed in an electric mixer or 150 short strokes with a wooden spoon. Gradually add 2 more cups flour, and continue beating for 3 minutes - or 150 strokes.
(Note: While the entire mixing and kneading operation can be done in the electric mixer, I like to judge the feel of the dough by hand before turning the job over to a dough hook.)
Turn off the mixer and add about 2 more cups flour. Work it in with a spoon, and when it becomes stiff, with your hands. When the dough has a rough form and is cleaning the sides of the mixing bowl, turne it out on the floured work surface.
(I apologize - I don't have kneading pictures for this batch, but if you want to see the series of me kneading by hand, left-handed, while I took pictures with my right hand, go here and scroll down a bit. It's a pasta dough, but still, kneading's kneading.)
Knead for about 8 minutes with a strong push-turn-fold motion. Occasionally throw the dough hard against the work surface (stimulates the gluten). Or replace the dough in the mixer bowl and put under the dough hook for an equal length of time.
Place 2 cups flour in the work bowl and then add the other ingredients, as above. Pulse several times to thoroughly mix. Remove the cover and add 2 more cups flour. Replace the cover and pulse to blend.
Add the remaining flour through the feed tube, pulsing after each addition, until the dough begins to form and is carried around the bowl by the force of the blade.
Turn on the machine to knead for 45 seconds.
Divide the dough in half, and shape the balls.
Let rest under a cloth for 5 minutes.
Form the loaves by pressing each (with your palm or rolling pin) into an oval, roughly the length of the baking pan. Fold the oval in half (I kind of rolled it into a football shape), pinch the seam tightly to seal, tuck under the ends, and place seam down in the pan.
Brush the loaves with the melted butter.
Place the pans in a cold oven and turn heat to 400 degrees F for 60 seconds--1 minute, no more. Turn it off!
400 degrees F
About 30 minutes later turn on the oven to 400 degrees F and bake for 45 minutes, or until the loaves are brown. When done, they will sound hollow when tapped on the bottom crust with the forefinger.
If the crust is soft, return to the oven, without the pans, for 10 minutes.
(If using a convection oven, reduce heat 50 degrees.)
Place the loaves on a rack to cool.
The bread is fine for sandwiches and toast. It also freezes very well.
And that's the recipe.
This is the first loaf I set out to cool, and that is Alex, blowing with all his lung power at the loaf to cool it down so I'll cut him a slice.
And here is Mata Julia,
...planning her trip into the kitchen to steal some bread whether I've decided to slice it or not. She's also "doing dishes" (that's her cover when she's a bread spy) which means I let her play with plastic containers in the sink and run the water for a little while and "wash" them.
But back to the bread.
This was incredibly easy and if you have any fear of yeast, first of all, you shouldn't, and second of all, making this recipe will change that for good.
That's my ringing endorsement right there.
Still not convinced?
Look at that face. Pure, unadulterated bliss.
And look here...
Pretty as a sunset. Now go make some bread.