I remember getting fresh baked bread from the bakery with my mom as a special treat. She loved it and would savor every nibble. I also remember one Christmas my mom baking what seemed like 2 dozen loaves of knotted bread for presents. Homemade bread has always been a special treat. But why should it be? Is it just the time? Well, it takes an evening but there is only about 30 minutes where you are actually prepping it. So say on laundry day or when you know you will be home for the evening you; you should really give it a try.
Wasted food is actually a huge addition to a grocery bill. Whether it’s rotted veggies you swore you would eat (sigh that’s me alright) or bread you were planning on making into sandwiches or toast or french toast or garlic bread or whatever else might be the plan and instead it just gets stale and then eventually molds. Then there is the fact that making your own bread is just more affordable than buying it – even when compared to the cheap stuff. It’s just 65 cents for 4 cups of flour (less if you buy your’s bulk) and about 40 cents for the yeast – depending on what brand.
So what’s my favorite white bread recipe? Well it’s an adaption over time from the Basic White Bread recipe in Beard on Bread (which I highly recommend for anyone who likes to bake their own bread – I picked up my copy from the salvation army for just 25 cents!).
Favorite White Bread
4 cups flour
1 package dry active yeast (2 3/4 teaspoons or .25 oz)
2 T. granulated sugar
1 1/2 – 2 cups warm water
2 t. salt
1 T. softened butter for buttering bowl and pan
2. Measure 3 1/2 cups unsifted flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the salt and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add 3/4 warm water and continue stirring until the dough starts to break away from the sides.
Add the yeast mixture and continue stirring until the dough can be formed into a ball.
3. Knead on a slightly floured surface until as Beard puts it “the dough no longer feels sticky and has a smooth, satiny, elastic texture, adding more flour if necessary”. It usually takes me about 5 minutes, sometimes less, sometimes more.
4. Let the dough rest on the kneading surface while you wash and dry out the mixing bowl. Coat the inside of the bowl with a bit of the butter. Transfer the ball of dough to the mixing bowl. Place a piece of wax paper over the mixing bowl and then a kitchen towel over that. Place in the oven (with just the pilot light on or if electric like mine – no heat). The main thing is to have a draft free area. Let rise for about 1 to 2 hours; until the dough has doubled in size.
5. When you think the dough has risen enough, poke it with two fingers. If the indents don’t spring back it’s ready to go. Push the dough down with your fists. Place on a lightly floured surface and knead again for about 3 minutes and then pat it into a nice oval. Place in your buttered baking tin. Smooth it out. Cover again and place back in the unheated oven for 45 minutes to an hour.
6. Take the bread out of the oven and turn it on to 400 F.
Brush the dough with a little water (this helps keep the crust crisp) and then slash three times with a very sharp knife. About 1/2 inch deep.
Place in the preheated oven and bake for 35-45 minutes. Give it a rap with your knuckles and if it sounds hollow it’s good to go.
7. Turn out on a cooling rack and let cool for 2 hours before storing in an air tight container. Your bread should stay tasty and fresh for about a week or so; longer if kept in the frig; a month if in the freezer.
In random news. I’ve decided not to post on Sundays. I think I’ll just try to post twice a week from now on. Most likely Tuesdays and Thursdays, but we will see depending on shifting teaching times (each quarter is different).
Until next time, happy cooking!