I always get enticed by stories where the main protagonists live right next to the best bakery in the neighborhood and take a daily walk... hear the birds chirping and see the early morning rays pierce thru the sleepy trees, smell the dew on the grass, feel the misty light swirling around.. to reach the bakery and exchange a few words with the baker while choosing the bread of the day.. It's the grown up equivalent of the old Enid Blyton charm of tea sandwiches and lemonade.
After coming here, I was bread heaven.. I would go to the supermarket and stand stupefied in the bread aisle..yes, there is an entire aisle dedicated to bread!!! trying to decide which bread to be carried back home..but finally over time, I realised they were all prepacked mass manufactured ones which I got bored soon of.
In between I tried my hand at the home baked bread too....There is something irresistible about the smell of baking bread..the slightly yeasty, toasty smell that envelops the whole house...they were good but not that good to write about. My folks visited us for the first time in US and my mom and I spent our time making all kinds of bread. Then for a while, my job and kid took over and I stopped experimenting.
By then, Paneras set up shop and that started the love affair with the Artisan breads, the whole wheat baguettes, sourdough bread, the cinnamon raisin bread, the roasted garlic, the olive bread, sun dried tomato bread...needless to say I spent a lot of time and money there for some time. That's how my family got hooked on paninis (a fancy grilled cheese sandwich with lots of stuffing) and french toast with leftover bread.
Then came the no-knead bread revolution, where you could artisan breads (the kind of bread with the crusty exterior and the spongy yummy interior), without getting your hands dirty nor using up too much effort. That bread demystified the whole bread shop and made the stuffy, snobbish sounding "artisan" bread to just a loaf of bread which gets a special treatment to generate the chewy crust. So that bread, along with the five minute bread, all of which I shall write about later, became staples...
BUT.. there was still something wrong.. as anyone with kids knows, unless the kids like it, there is no point in making something again and again...and the Artisan breads were too hard for my kids, so again I was searching..for a simple loaf this time.
Also, my mom is again visiting (though on the other coast of US)and she asked for a white bread recipe to use up the extra yeast. Now the Internet is filled with artisan and fancy breads of all kinds but I couldn't find a simple white bread.
Going back to my old copy of "Bread", a book that was neglected in all this hi-fi baking, I got a white bread recipe..and it was so easy!! Knead once, let it rise, punch down and shape into baking pan, let it rise and then bake.
Anyway, to stop my rambling, here is my first white bread.. It may not perfect and the shape is a little flat as I didn't have the correct loaf pan..(but as my DH says, this can be the reason to buy the loaf pan now.) Is it economical to make your bread? I don't know about that.. but it sure tastes good. I just need to figure out how to store it without the moisture coming in it. Any suggestions for that?
I am not an expert in this, but this recipe seems to be fool proof as I saw it in two different books. Also the temperature distribution in electric and gas ovens will be a little different so the first time may not be perfect. Will keep you updated with my adventures. Do try and if I can I will resolve issues with your results.
You Will Need:
This dough makes 2 loafs so either half the ingredients accordingly or freeze the dough and use it later for the second loaf.
Warm water-1/4 cup (2 fl oz)
Warm Whole Milk- 2cups(16 fl oz)
Active Dry Yeast-4 teaspoons
Sugar-2 tablespoons or honey plus one pinch of sugar.
Unsalted Butter-2 tablespoon, melted
Bread Flour- 6 to 6 1/4 cup plus extra as needed
Canola oil for greasing
In a bowl, combine the water and the 1/4 of the milk. Sprinkle the yeast and the pinch of sugar over the liquid and stir to dissolve. Let it stand till foamy, about 10 minutes.
In a food processor or in a bowl, combine the remaining milk, sugar, salt and 1/3 of the flour. Whisk or beat till creamy and then add the yeast mix and slowly add the remaining flour one cup at a time so that it all mixes well without any lumps. Keep mixing till the dough pulls away form the bowl side in the food processor.
Mix with the back of a spoon and knead by hand if you are not using the food processor. The dough should be smooth and elastic. Just like you make a chapathi/puri or batura dough, except that this will be slightly softer. Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn the dough to coat it lightly with the oil in the bowl.Cover loosely with plastic wrap or a lid and let it rise at room temperature for 1 1/2 hrs.
Lightly grease a 9X5 inch loaf pan. Turn the risen dough out onto a lightly floured board/mixing plate and divide in half. Pat it into a rectangle and fold it like an envelope. Roll up the dough tightly into a thick log and roll it back and forth with your hands till it is the same length as the loaf pan.
Pinch the ends and the long seam to seal and place the loaf in the pan , with the seam side down..All this is done just to get a neat rectangular shape so do it any way you like it. Cover loosely again and let it rise for another hour, till the dough has risen one inch over the rim of the loaf pan.Preheat the oven to 375 F(190 C). Bake on the middle rack till the loaf is golden brown and pulls away from the sides, about 40 minutes. Turn out onto a wired rack and let it cook completely. Store in a cool, dark place.