Do you guys remember Mr. Retehtey from yesterday? Before the great S. cerevisiae visited his humble dough, he made his bread (crackers) with three basic ingredients: flour, salt and water. And then, there were four. To this day, wonderful breads are made with just these four ingredients.
I'm going to let my friend, The Reluctant Gourmet, teach you how to make a basic white bread. Go check out his Basic Bread Recipe. Plus, there is a link to all sorts of bread information. This is good stuff, so go check it out. When you come back, I'll tell you aaalll about my bread recipe. It has lots of ingredients, but the proportion of liquid to dry is about the same as the basic recipe. You'll be able to tell that they are related.
Jenni's Bread--makes 2 large loaves (9X5)
This makes 2 large loaves. If your mixer only holds 4 1/2-5 quarts, you'll have to make it by hand, or halve the recipe and only make one loaf.
Be not intimidated by the long list of ingredients. Leave out the corn flour, just add in an extra 3 oz. bread flour or whole wheat flour. Ditto for the oats and the wheat germ. The bran won't soak up any liquid, so you can just leave that out altogether without making any other adjustments. You can even use all whole wheat flour. Your loaf will be a little denser, but it will still be wonderful. I put all these different ingredients in the bread for nutritional value and also for flavor and texture. Total dry ingredients=39 oz. or roughly 2 1/2 pounds. Total liquid is roughly 1 1/2 pounds.
- 15 oz. water
- 5 oz. milk, scalded and cooled to warm
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 teaspoons yeast
- 16 oz. whole wheat flour
- 3 oz. corn flour
- 2 oz. oatmeal (no, not cooked with cinnamon and raisins)
- 1 oz. wheat germ
- 1 oz. wheat bran
- 1 TBSP+1 tsp salt
- 3 oz. melted butter
- about 1 pound bread flour
In the bowl from your stand mixer, stir together water, milk, honey, yeast, whole wheat flour, corn flour, oats, wheat germ and wheat bran. Stir it really well. You will have a thick batter. Cover this and let it sit for at least thirty minutes and up to two hours. This is a sponge. I take this extra step to make sure that all the ingredients get good and hydrated and softened and so the yeast have a chance to start doing their rising thing without a ton of weight pressing down on them, and without any ingredients that would curb their growth (salt, fat). That was a long sentence. I apologize. (You can make any bread recipe with a sponge. Just stir together everything but the salt, fat and about 1/2 the flour. Let it burble away before completing the recipe). Right then; on we go.
Once the sponge is looking a bit puffy and bubbly, add in the salt, melted butter and about 12 oz. of the bread flour. On low speed, let the dough hook bring the dough together. If the dough looks very gooey and lots is sticking in the bottom of the mixer bowl, add a bit more of the reserved bread flour. Feel your dough. You want a soft-ish, slightly sticky dough. Dry dough equals dense, dumb bread. Err on the side of a little too wet rather than too dry. Once the dough is the Perfect Texture, let the mixer knead it for 6-8 minutes.
Take the dough out of the mixer, and follow The Reluctant Gourmet's steps for proofing, shaping, rising and baking.
I let this bread cool completely and then slice it in 1/3" slices. I wrap it well and freeze it. We take it out one serving at a time. It's okay to put frozen bread in the toaster. After it thaws, it will toast up just fine. It's also okay to make a sandwich on frozen bread. It will thaw and taste completely fresh. I promise.
I am anticipating a couple of questions. Make that three:
1) Why so much honey? The yeast can't eat all of that! True. I like my bread to be a little sweet. Plus, the honey is hygroscopic. It draws water to it even more powerfully than plain old sugar. It helps to keep the bread from going stale.
2) Why do you scald the milk? There is some sort of enzyme in milk that impedes rising. It's even in powdered milk. Scalding inactivates this enzyme so the bread will rise nicely.
3)Why milk plus water? I made this bread with all milk one time. It was much sweeter than I wanted just for a sandwich bread. Yeast doesn't eat lactose, so those milk sugars stay in the bread. Make it with all milk and knead in some raisins for a killer breakfast bread. No, I don't know if yeast are lactose intolerant or if they're just picky eaters.
Relax; have fun baking. Enjoy the bread, and don't forget to thank the yeast.