Kitchen Witchery: Homemade Bread

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The weather here at Fogvale Cottage has been a mite dreary. Rain, wind, fog, more rain…just a typical February weekend here on the Pacific coast.

It’s a good weekend to be curled up under a handmade quilt with a steaming mug of tea and an adorable Italian Greyhound (who took to amusing herself by ripping the mane off her stuffed pony; sorry, Snowflake).

Unfortunately, in the midst of all this rain-enforced domesticity, I realized I was out of bread to make sandwiches for work tomorrow and – being without a car – no way in Hades was I walking to the store for a loaf of bread. What to do?

Make my own, of course!

I personally think everyone, but especially a hearth witch, needs a go-to recipe for sandwich bread, and this one from America’s Test Kitchen is one of the best I’ve tried. There’re no exotic ingredients, and it whips up quick in a stand mixer. I went from “Hey, I need bread” to a loaf cooling on the rack in a little over a couple of hours, and most of that time was spent waiting for it to rise.

It’s forgiving, cuts nicely and tastes delicious…perfect for sandwiches or slathered with bread and jam for tea.

And no call to go out in the rain.

American Sandwich Bread
from America’s Test Kitchen Family Baking Book

1 cup warm whole milk (about 110 degrees)
1/3 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 tablespoons butter, melted (plus more for brushing loaf)
3 tablespoons honey
3 ¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting the work surface)
2 teaspoons salt
1 envelope (about 2 ¼ teaspoon) instant or Rapid Rise yeast

Recipe

Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Once the oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain the heat for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven. (Note: This is the best way I’ve found to proof bread, particularly in my old oven, which holds heat really well.)

Mix 3 ½ cup of the flour, salt and yeast in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook.

Mix the milk, water, butter, and honey in a 4-cup liquid measuring cup.

Turn the machine to low and slowly add the liquid. When the dough comes together, increase the spend to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and satiny, stopping the machine two or three times to scrape the dough from the hook, if necessary, about 10 minutes.

After about four minutes of kneading, if the dough sticks to the sides of the bowl, add a little flour, one tablespoon at a time until the dough is no longer sticky.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead to form a smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.

Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl, rubbing the dough around the bowl to coat lightly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the warmed oven until the dough doubles in size, 40 – 50 minutes.

Gently press the dough into a rectangle 1 inch thick and no longer than 9 inches. With a long side facing you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch the seam tightly closed.

Place the dough seam-side down in a greased 9 by 5 inch loaf pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in a warm spot until the dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes.

Keep one oven rack at the lowest position and place the other at the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted at an angle from the short end just above the pan rim into the center of the loaf reads 195 degrees, 40 to 50 minutes.

Remove the bread from the pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool completely before slicing.

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