Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Go-to bread

This is my standard go-to bread recipe: it's simple, forgiving, and flavorful. Yesterday, I tried using our stand-up bowl mixer to do the kneading for the first time (technically, it belongs to the Government of Canada, not to us -- details). It worked remarkably well (at least after I discovered that the mixer has a tendency to walk across the counter -- it came within millimeters of toppling onto the kitchen floor), but I did need to add a bit of flour and do a couple minutes of kneading myself to be happy with the dough.

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
  • 2 1/4 cups warm water
  • 6-7 cups bread flour (any combination of good flours will do; just ensure that you have enough gluten content)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, sunflower oil, or melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (or 1 tablespoon sugar and 1 tablespoon honey)
  • 1/2 tablespoon salt
  • 1 cup wheat germ (optional)
  • chopped herbs, etc. (optional)
  • In a large bowl, combine half a cup of the water with the yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar. Let proof.
  • Add 3 cups flour, the rest of the water, the rest of the sugar/honey, the oil/butter, and salt, and mix until mostly combined. At this point, add any optional ingredients.
  • Gradually add the rest of the flour until the dough is no longer sticky. Knead until ready (about 10 minutes). Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a cloth and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume (approximately an hour).
  • Butter two loaf pans. Punch the dough down, divide in half, and form two loaves. Let rise in the pans until doubled in volume again (another hour).
  • Preheat oven to 450°.
  • Slash the tops of the loaves with a sharp knife. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 and bake for 30 more minutes. Turn the heat off and allow the bread to sit in the oven for an extra five minutes. The bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

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