Yesterday I went completely insane in the kitchen. I'm no longer buying bread from the store and we are now happily eating only homemade bread. This means I bake a lot of bread each weekend. I love it! It's easy, fun and rewarding. And the house smells great! My husband's only complaint is that it is too tasty to stop eating!
This week I decided to deviate from my typical basic bread loaf and searched for a recipe to make a softer sandwich loaf. Oh, I did the basic loaf too (flour, yeast, water & honey - pictured at left in various shapes, sizes and flour combinations) and also zucchini-carrot muffins for my preschooler's classroom snack. I felt like a professional baker with kitchen surfaces covered with freshly baked bread, rising dough and muffins. I baked for 3 hours straight. This thanks to a 1-year-old who took an incredible nap and the best husband/papa who took with him one little girl and did the grocery shopping.
The sandwich loaf is good, but more complicated to make than the basic bread and I have to say, isn't as delicious. So, to impress your family and friends, stick with the basic for now. This recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver's (see link in previous post). So simple that you have no excuse but to try it for yourself.
Four cups flour (I typically use 2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour and 2 whole wheat).
2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tablespoon salt
2+ cups warm water (not too hot or you'll kill the yeast)
1 or 2 tablespoons of honey (I don't measure anymore)
Mix the flour, salt and active dry yeast in a large bowl.
Make a pit in the center and pour in the water
Add the honey
Mix with a wooden spoon until combined and then (after thoroughly washing your hands and removing jewelry)
knead on a clean, floured surface (I use a large plastic cutting board).
The reason I love baking bread far more than cake or other measured baking is because it is a little different every time. You may need to add a bit more water or you may want to work with a dryer dough until you're more comfortable with kneading. And you can cheat and use a mixer with a bread hook, but it just doesn't turn out the same.
So, knead! For about 10 minutes until it's that perfect texture and push it into a ball.
Set it on a floured surface and score it two to three times.
Leave it to rise until doubled in size (90 minutes).
Punch that baby down (gently) and listen and feel the air squeezing out of it. Back into a ball. For two smaller loaves cut it in half. For a big one leave it whole.
Flour the top, score it 3 times and leave it again for another hour or two.
Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes.