Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Bread Saga, Part 3: Basic White Bread

 So after all my research and figuring out, I decided I needed to try to make a reeeally simple loaf of bread, just to make sure I had the idea down before moving on to more legit recipes. While I was on my library adventure, I opened up one of the books right to this recipe; Beginner's White Loaf. Just what I needed! It had plenty of instructions, and everything seemed to go according to plan! The yeast proofed fine, the dough rose perfectly, but I really knew I had done something right when, about five minutes from pulling this bad boy out of the oven, the whole kitchen smelled like Grandma's house.
I even made myself a little back to school treat; an almond butter and strawberry jelly sandwich for the first day of classes. Holy moly, it was the best sandwich I'd ever had!
So it's decided, I'm not a TOTAL failure at baking bread! I still need more practice, but I'm getting better! Woohoo!

Also, the lighting in the new apartment sucks. Sorry about it.

Beginner's White Loaf
From Bread by Sarah Morgan

1 package active dry yeast (2 1/2 tsp)
1/3 cup lukewarm water with 1/2 tsp sugar
1 cup milk
1 egg
1 tsp salt
2 tbs shortening
4-5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbs sugar

In a large saucepan, heat milk to scalding, but do not boil. While it is still hot, add the shortening, salt, and tablespoon sugar. Stir well and set aside to cool. Dissolve yeast in the warm water with the 1/2 tsp sugar. The sugar is to proof the yeast. Singe yeast is a glutton for sweets and starches, the mixture will begin to bubble, usually in 5 to 10 minutes, as the yeast eats on these - which shows that it is indeed alive. When the milk has cooled to lukewarm, combine the two mixtures, add the egg and start beating in the flour. Beat in flour, either by hand with a wooden spoon or with an electric mixer. The beating or kneading of the dough stretches the gluten in the flour, which holds the gas produced by the yeast and thus acts as a framework for the rising dough. Beating the dough performs the same purpose as kneading, and therefore when the dough is sufficiently beaten, it seldom needs beating.
When the dough becomes too thick to beat, add a little more flour by mixing with the hands. As soon as the dough has reached a moderately firm stage and is still pliable and elastic, turn it into a large, well greased bowl, turn it over once o grease the top, then cover and set aside in a warm spot to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour or a little longer.
If you are especially ambitious and full of pep, you may want to knead the dough as well as beat it, before placing it in the bowl to rise. Kneading is nothing more than punching, folding, turning, squeezing - just getting the "feel" of the dough.
When the dough has doubled in bulk, punch it down to its original size, turn it to make sure the top is greased, cover and set side again to rise until doubled in bulk, The second rising is not always necessary, and it does take time - however, I consider it worthwhile in many instances. When the dough has doubled a second time, turn it onto a floured surface, knead slightly and form into a loaf. Place in a well greased loaf pan; cover and let rise again until doubled in bulk.
Brush the loaf with melted butter and bake in a preheated oven at about 375 for about 35 minutes or until the bread is brown and slightly pulled away from the sides of the pan. Another method of testing doneness in loaf bread is to thump the top with the fingers. If it sounds hollow it is done. Remove from pan onto a cooling rack; then cut a slice while it is still very hot and enjoy the fruits of bread baking!

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