Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Home Made Bread

Our family has a taste for artisan bread....which happens to be quite expensive. I recently decided to try my hand at making breads at home, since they can take a big bite out of our grocery budget. I have always avoided baking for the most part at it seemed more chemistry than anything else- and that's not really my strong suit.

But once I started looking, I found the book Kneadlessly Simple by Nancy Baggett. The recipe's lack of kneading appealing, as was the stated intention of being easy!

My first shot at bread turned out wonderfully. It was easy, relatively mess-free, and the most challenging part was waiting to bake it. The slow-rise method featured in the book also means the steps are quite short. This made it easy to fit in when the baby was occupied or napping without eating up all my free time. The bread light, smooth, and rich with a wonderfully crunchy thin crust. This will definitely be a repeat!

Easy White Bread Loaves

6 1/2 cups unbleached white bread flour, plus more as needed
3 1/2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp table salt
1 tsp instant, fast rising or bread machine yeast
1/3 cup corn oil, canola oil or other flavorless vegetable oil
2 3/4 cups ice water

First Rise
1. In a *very* large bowl, thoroughly stir together the flour, sugar, salt and yeast.
2. In a medium bowl or measuring cup, whisk together the oil and ice water.
3. Thoroughly stir the mixture into the bowl with the flour, scraping down the sides until thoroughly blended. If the mixture is too dry to incorporate all the flour, a bit at a time, stir in just enough more water to blend the ingredients; don't over-moisten. If necessary, stir in more flour to stiffen it.
4. Brush or Spray the top with oil.
5. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
6. Rise options: Refrigerate the dough for 3 to 10 hours, then let rise at cool room temp (about 70) for 15 to 20 hours. If not refrigerating, let rise at cool room temp for 15 to 20 hours.

Second Rise
1. After 15 to 20 hour rise, vigorously stir the dough, adding more flour if necessary to yield very stiff dough.
2. Using well oiled kitchen shears or a serrated knife, cut dough in half, placing portions in 2 well-greased 8 1/2x4 1/2 (I used 9x5) loaf pans. Smooth and press the dough into the pans using a well-oiled rubber spatula or your fingertips.
3. Evenly brush or spray the dough tops with oil. Make a 1/2" deep slash lengthwise down the center of each loaf.
4. Tightly cover the pans with non-stick spray coated plastic wrap.
5. Rise Options: At warm room temp (80+) let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. You can refrigerate from 3-24 hours, then let rise as previously noted. As dough rises, remove the plastic as the dough nears it and continue rise tunil the dough reaches 1/2" above the pan rims. Dust each loaf with 1 tbsp flour.

1. Place oven rack in lower third of oven and preheat oven to 425, let oven heat for 15 minutes.
2. Reduce oven temp to 400. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes, until tops are nicely browned. If loaves are over browning, the tops can be covered with foil. Loaves are done when a skewer inserted in the thickest part comes out with just a few crumbs or the center reads 208 to 210 on an instant read thermometer.
3. Cool pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes, then turn out loaves and let pans cool completely.

Bread will store at room temp for 2 to 3 days or may be frozen in airtight container for up to two months.

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