Friday, January 21, 2011

Homemade White Bread

My favorite homemade yeast bread recipe...

I use my stand mixer (with both the paddle and dough hook attachments); it's my secret to bread success.

I documented every step of the process as I prepared these loaves today.

But it was about 4:30 in the morning, and without natural light, the pictures turned out positively awful.

So, I'm sorry---this will be a boring post.  If only I could figure out how to capture the aroma of the bread baking and release it as you click on this recipe...that would surely put a smile on your face.

This recipe is from stained and splotched page 746 of my copy of The Joy of Cooking.  I have doubled the amounts in the recipe below because, as far as I'm concerned, if you're going to do all the work to make homemade bread, you should at least end up with more than one loaf...

As I mentioned in this yeast roll post, I suggest using a cooking thermometer.  If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast.  If it's too cold, the yeast won't rise.  For me, making bread is too much work to risk messing it all up with the wrong water temperature.  My faithful little cooking thermometer cost less than $5.  It's a great kitchen tool. 

If you make this bread, and I sure hope you do, please read through the entire recipe first.  It is not complicated...but reading it all will help you get a "bird's eye view" before you begin...

Milk Bread
Makes two 9x5" loaves

2 packages (4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
6 tablespoons warm (105 to 115 degrees) water
2 cups whole or low-fat milk, warmed to 105 to 115 degrees)
11 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, divided
6 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons salt
7-9 cups of all-purpose flour*

Place the yeast in a large mixing bowl or in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer.   Pour the water over the yeast (without mixing) and let it stand until the yeast is mostly dissolved and foamy, about 5 minutes.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, mix together the milk, 10 tablespoons of the butter, the sugar, eggs, and salt.  Stir until butter is melted.  The mixture should be 105 to 115 degrees. 

Pour the warm milk/egg/sugar mixture into the yeast.  Using the paddle attachment (or a sturdy wooden spoon), mix on low speed for about 1 minute.  Gradually stir in 4 cups of flour.

(At this time, if you are using a standard stand mixer (as opposed to a commercial mixer), I suggest removing half of the dough from the mixing bowl.  If you don't, when you start to add the flour in the following step, it will "overwhelm" the paddle attachment and "climb" to where the paddle attaches to the mixer motor.  That's a terrible explanation.  Let me just say this:  if you don't halve the dough, it's a royal pain in the rear to have clean the grooves and nooks of your mixer afterwards.)

While stirring (or with the mixer on medium-low speed), mix in the remaining flour, ONE CUP AT A TIME, just until the dough is no longer sticky but is still moist.  (You may not have to use all of the flour, so only add it in small increments.)

(If you have removed half of the dough in the step above, only add a cup and a half to two cups of flour to each batch of dough.  Add it in half-cup increments, just until you can touch the dough without it sticking to your fingers.)

After the flour has been added and the dough is no longer sticky (but is still moist), switch to the dough hook.  Let it knead the dough for about 5-7 minutes on low to medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic.  (Knead it for about 10 minutes by hand.)

If you did not divide the dough into half in the earlier steps, do so now. 

Pour a little canola oil or grapeseed oil (about 1/2 a teaspoon) into a large bowl; use a paper towel to lightly coat the bowl.  Then place the dough in the bowl and turn to also coat it in the oil. 

Spray a piece of plastic wrap with cooking spray and loosely cover the bowl.  Cover the bowl with a towel and set it in a warm place (75-80 degrees) to allow the dough to rise until doubled in volume, about 1 to 1.5 hours.

Repeat with the second half of the dough and a second bowl. 

After it's risen, "punch" the dough down, knead breifly, and refrigerated (covered) for 30 minutes.  At this point the dough may be shaped into rolls.  Or, grease an 9 x 5-inch loaf pan, form the dough into a loaf, and place the seam side down in the pan.  Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place again until doubled in volume, about 1 to 1.5 hours

Repeat with second half of dough and a second loaf pan.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Brush the top of the loaves with the remaining tablespoon of melted butter.  Bake at 400 for about 8 minutes then reduce the temperature to 375 degrees.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is a deep golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. 

Remove the loaf from the pan (it should slide right out) and let it cool. 

(If you can stand to wait that long.  I never, ever can.)

*The original recipe calls for 50% bread flour and 50% all-purpose flour.  If you have bread flour, by all means, use it.  I don't keep it on hand, and using all-purpose flour in this recipe has always delivered great results for me.

Recipe adapted from:  The New All-Purpose Joy of Cooking (Scribner, 1997)


Caneel said...

I can almost smell it! Mmmm ...