Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bread*!

People. Have I told you that cooking is not my forte? Don't get me wrong; I can follow a recipe, make basic dishes, even occasionally turn something out that makes my family ask for seconds. But throw in something like "capers" or "reducing" and all of the sudden I'm no longer in my comfy world of crockpots and cream of soups.

Just know I speak the hand to God truth when I say this will never, ever be a cooking blog.

But I have discovered this fabulously easy, holy crap that's freaking good recipe and I am feeling the need to share it. Trust me when I tell you that you need to make this recipe. Want to impress your family, friends and neighbors? Need to soften up your boss before asking for that raise? Longing to have a cooking one-up on your mother-in-law? This is it, people.

Bread.

Yes, bread. Simple, heart-warming, delicious, bread. Bread that you can make with your very own hands in your very own kitchen, no fancy tools required. Bread that will elicit moans of delight from the mouths of those you deign to share it with. Bread that you will want to make in double and triple quantities, because, hey, it really is that good.

I bow down to Trent at The Simple Dollar for posting this recipe. Trent, you have my taste-buds' undying love and devotion.

For those of you who are anal retentive detail oriented bakers such as myself, I am reposting the recipe here in easy-to-copy-and-paste-into-Word format.

I give you ... Bread.

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Ingredients
¼ cup milk
5 tsp sugar (or 1 ½ tbsp)
1 tsp salt
5 tsp butter (or 1 ½ tbsp)
1 package active dry yeast (21g or 2 ¼ tsp)
2 ½ to 3 ½ cups unbleached white flour
Corn starch or nonstick cooking spray (just used to prevent the bread from sticking to the bowl or pan)

Equipment
One large mixing bowl (a second one is useful, but optional – you can get by with one if you’re willing to wash it in the middle of the process)
One spoon to stir the dough
One ¼ or ½ measuring cup
One 1 tsp measuring spoon
One bread pan (i.e., meatloaf pan)
One hand towel to cover the bread dough as it rises

Directions

Warm up your mixing bowl – the best way to do that is to just fill it with hot water, then dump out the hot water, leaving the bowl rather warm. Mix up the yeast according to the directions on the packet (normal instructions are to add 1 c. water). Stir this until there are no lumps in the yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Melt the butter in the microwave, then add it, the milk, the sugar, and the salt to the yeast liquid and stir it up until everything looks the same (a very light tan liquid). Then add two cups of flour to the mix – don’t add the rest yet. Your bowl should look something like what’s shown below, where the spoon is in the bowl.
















Start stirring, and then add the flour about 1/4 cup at a time every minute or so. It will stick to the spoon big time at first – don’t worry about it. Keep stirring and adding flour until the dough is still slightly sticky, but it doesn’t stick to your hands in any significant way. Also, it should largely clean the sides of the bowl, leaving just a thin layer of floury stuff. It’ll look something like this:
















Now comes the fun part: kneading. Take a bit of flour between your hands and then rub them together over the top of an area on the table where you’re going to knead the dough. Do this a few times until there’s an area on the table lightly covered in flour. Then grab the dough ball out of the bowl, slap it down on the table, and start beating on it. Do this for ten minutes. Just take the dough, punch it flat, then fold it back up into a ball again, and repeat several times. You can also take it in your hands and squeeze and twist it.
















When the ten minutes are up, shape it into a ball (like shown below), then either clean up the bowl you were using before or get out another bowl. Coat the inside lightly with either corn starch or nonstick cooking spray, depending on your preference, then put the ball of dough inside the bowl.
















Put a cloth over the bowl and sit it somewhere fairly warm for an hour. If you have a warming area on your stove top, that’s a great place to put it – set the warming area on as low as it will go, as I’m doing in the picture above. This is a good time to clean everything else and put the stuff away, but leave the flour out and the floured area on your table untouched.

















Here’s what the dough looks like before rising ...
















... and then an hour later after rising, still in the bowl:
















It should be roughly double the size that it was before, but don’t sweat it too much if it’s larger or smaller than that, as long as it rose at least some amount.

Punch the dough down (three or four good whacks will cause it to shrink back down to normal), then lay the dough out on the floured area and spread it out in a rectangle shape, with one side being roughly the length of the bread pan and the other side being about a bread pan and a half long.
















You may need to put a bit more flour on it and on the table to prevent sticking. Then, roll it up! The roll should be roughly the same size as the bread pan, as shown below.
















Tuck the ends of the roll underneath, with the “under” side being where the seam is. Then spray the bread pan down with nonstick cooking spray (or coat it with cornmeal) and put the loaf inside of the pan.
















Cover that loaf up with the towel, put it back where it was before, and wait another hour. This is a good time to clean everything up, then go do something else fun. The loaf should raise some more:
















Put the loaf in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius) for thirty minutes. When it’s done, pull it out and immediately remove it from the pan to cool. It’ll look something like this, hopefully:

















Let it cool down completely before slicing.

(If you copy this into Word, you're going to have some extra spaces. But once you delete them, it should be ready to print!)

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It's so easy to tweak this recipe just a bit and get some unbelievably good variations. Prior to the roll-up step, add cinnamon and sugar to turn your bread into a mouth-watering dessert. Or replace the salt with garlic salt, and prior to roll-up add Italian seasoning (and maybe some parmesan cheese) for the perfect pasta accompaniment. Personally, next time I'm going to add sugar and cocoa because really, you can't go wrong with chocolate.

Let me know how yours turns out ... bon app├ętit!




*Props to Marcus for cementing this word in my mind forever, along with the laughter and good memories that come with it. Long live D&D nerds! ;-)

3 comments:

Nathan said...

The cinnamon and sugar trick is just crazy yum. I'm starting to think that "Crust of water. Glass of bread," is something I could live with. :)

The Woman Formerly Known as Jenn said...

Huge points for "Crust of water. Glass of bread." LMAO!

Sadako said...

Oh yum, that looks impressive! I can't cook myself so when anyone makes ANYTHING I'm impressed.