I am a carb fiend. Pasta, bread, sweets…Anything carb-related brings me incredible amounts of joy. Bread is one of those things that took me a long time to get right, and I’ll be the first to admit I still have nights where I am just OFF. You know, you did everything the recipe said and it STILL didn’t work out right. I get those weekly, I think.
A really good white bread recipe is a thing of beauty. It’s substantial enough to hold a serious array of meats/cheeses/veg in it, but still mild enough in flavor to not be competing. But it can’t be that mushy sawdusty store-bought crud. This stuff is more than tasty enough to just butter and toast it, you know?
From Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan (should make two substantial loaves)
- 2 1/2 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- approx. 7 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1/2 stick unsalted butter, at room temp.
Pour half a cup of that warm water into a bowl, sprinkle in the yeast and sugar and whisk to blend. Let it sit there until frothy, about five minutes.
Add the remaining two cups of water and approx. 3 1/2 cups of the flour to the yeast. Mix carefully, by hand or with mixer, making as little a mess as you can. I tend to cover my counters at this point. Going slowly, add the other 3 1/2 cups and mix until it comes together into a shaggy dough. If it’s still a little too liquid-y, add a little more until it comes together. This is where I add the salt and butter, then begin the kneading process. Some people prefer to let the mixer do the work, I actually enjoy doing it by hand! Lightly flour an area of your countertop and knead for 10 minutes or so, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Set a timer if you need to, once you’ve seen properly kneaded dough once you’ll probably be able to eyeball it. If you do it in a mixer, it will take about half the time.
Oil a large bowl and place your gorgeous dough ball into it. Roll the ball around a little to cover every surface with oil and then cover the entire bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Leave it alone until it doubles, an hour or so.
After the first rise, punch it down and shape into loaves/buns/etc. If you want a sandwich style loaf, this will fill two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 loaf pans nicely. I managed to get a sandwich loaf and half a dozen buns out of one batch. Cover your loaves with plastic wrap again and let them, you guessed it, double in size again. Try for about 45 minutes. While they’re rising, preheat your oven to 375.
Once the loaves have risen, stuff them in the oven for 35-45 minutes. They’re done when they’re golden brown and sound hollow when you thump them with your finger. Take them out, turn them out of the pans and let them cool. Resist the urge to cut into them until they’re completely cooled, please. (I know its difficult, I swear.) They’ll keep for a few days in a brown paper bag, but I can’t imagine them not being eaten before then! They’ll also freeze well in an airtight container for up to a month or so.
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