Saturday, November 7, 2009

My Suggestion for your First Loaf of Bread

Slight adaptation of King Arthur Flour's Our Favorite Sandwich Bread
2 tsp yeast
1 c water
1/3 c dry milk
2 Tblsp sugar
1 c whole wheat flour
2 Tblsp butter, soft
1 1/4 tsp salt
All purpose flour for remainder

The ingredients are listed in the order that I suggest adding them. It shouldn't matter much, but it's kind of nice to to dissolve the yeast in liquid first.
I use Rapid Rise yeast. Rose uses it for everything, so it must be fine. BUT it's fine to use any kind - you just may have longer rise times.
I use dry milk because a) I always have it on hand and b) the more finicky recipes I see say you must scald milk before you use it, but that dry milk is ok to just dump in.
It doesn't have to be white sugar. Brown sugar might add some warmth to the flavor. Honey is nice but kind of a pain to measure in small quantities. Molasses will give it a noticeable kick.
The whole wheat flour is optional - you can just use all purpose for the whole thing and get a nice white loaf.
I'd probably just do two rises at sea level - this was tested at high altitude.

Stir main ingredients together.
Add 1 c all purpose flour and stir.
Add about 1/2 c flour at a time, stirring, until dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl and starts to come together as a single mass.

Cover your hands in flour (adding more as needed) and knead 6-8 minutes. (Punch it, fold it, throw it on the counter, search for youtube instructional videos - however you want to knead it.) As far as I can tell, you pretty much CAN'T overknead by hand, so go at least the 6 minutes and all the way up to 10 if that makes you happy.
For a single loaf recipe like this, I often mix in a large bowl, knead in the bowl so I don't get flour everywhere, and rise it in the same place.

Oil a bowl lightly, form the dough into a ball by tucking the ends under, place it in the bowl and cover. Kitchen towel or cling wrap will do if your bowl doesn't have a lid.

Allow to rise until doubled in size - about an hour, but varies GREATLY by warmth of room, altitude, etc. The first rise is usually the longest.

Punch it down, give it a few folds to distribute the bubbles. Reform, recover the bowl, and allow to rise to double its size again.

Oil (or better - that spray oil with flour incorporated) a loaf pan. Flatten your dough into a rectangle, and roll it into about the length of the pan. Tuck the ends over if you need to. Place in the pan with the seam down.
Spray oil top of dough, cover with cling wrap. Allow to rise til crest is about an inch over the top of the pan.

You may slash the top of the loaf before putting it in the oven. I did a single slash down the center.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes. Allow to cool completely before slicing.

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