Friday, October 30, 2009

I heart Bread

I made bread today.  My husband and I are invited to a Halloween party tonight, and we're supposed to bring something to share.  I thought about cookies or a dip, but I've been craving homemade bread and a party seemed like the perfect excuse :)

This is the easiest, most fool proof bread recipe ever, and it's DELICIOUS.  Like, seriously, ridiculously yummy.  I like it best with butter and honey on it.

To start, empty one packet of yeast into a large bowl.
Or, if you're like me and buy your yeast in this handy jar, use 2 1/4 tsp.

In my experience the key to great bread is warmth.  Keep it warm the whole time.  Starting with the water.
I use water that is on the hot side of warm.
Add 2 cups to your yeast. (or have someone do it for you :)) If you have bits of yeast stuck to the side of your bowl, stir them in to the water with a wooden spoon.

Give it a minute or two, then add 1 tablespoon of sugar to the water/yeast mixture.

Once the yeast is completely dissolved you'll probably have some funny looking swirl to the water, like this.

But, you might not.  So don't wait around all day for something that looks funny.  Just give it a couple of minutes and move on.

Next add 4 cups of flour and 2 teaspoons of salt.

Stir it up with a wooden spoon.  Make sure it's well combined, but don't beat it up, because dough that's been beaten up bakes into tough bread.  I'm sensing an allegory here...

Okay, back to that warmth thing...
When I start the bread I turn my oven on to 350.  As soon as it reaches that temp I turn it off again.
After the dough is all combined, cover it with a (preferably damp) towel and set it on top of your stove.  Crack your oven door and drape the end of the towel over the opening.  That will keep your dough nice and warm :)

When the oven has cooled down a lot I'll move the bowl (still covered) right inside the oven, too harness the last of that heat.

While it's rising you can prepare your baking pan.  Spread some foil onto a cookie sheet, spray it with cooking spray (I like the olive oil variety) and sprinkle (lightly!) with cornmeal.  All done!

(easy on the cornmeal - too much is BAD. Trust me, I know)

After an hour, it's time to punch the dough down and shape your loaves.  Once I've pulled the bowls out and closed the oven, I tun it back on to warm up again for the second rising.  'Second rising' sounds funny.

This is STICKY dough.  It took me a long time to figure out the little trick I'm about to share with you.  Most of you probably figured it out the first time you made bread.  I'm not that bright.

Flour your surface lightly, leaving some to the side to use as you knead.
Spray one hand with cooking spray, then rub your hands together like it's lotion.  Get it all over the backs, between your fingers, etc.  This will save you lots of frustration and tons of time picking dough off your hands.  That was the tip, by the way.

Punch the dough down and divide it in half.  Then put one half in your flour, dust the top of it with more flour, and knead it a few times.  Literally - just a few.  This bread does not need to worked much.
Shape it into a loaf and place it on your prepared pan.
Do the same thing with the other half.

Cover your loaves with a towel again, cracking that oven door for heat.  Let it rise for another hour.

Now it's time to bake!
First, though, melt some butter (say, 3 Tbsp) and brush it on the top.  Generously.  You'll be glad you did.

Bake at 425 for 10 minutes.

Then brush some more butter on it and reduce the oven temperature to 375.  Bake it for another 15 minutes. Brush it with butter one last time when it comes out and then TRY to give it 5 or 10 minutes to cool down before you dive in.

I've made this with half whole wheat flour, too.  It's good :)
If you add dried rosemary to the flour at the start and mix a bit of garlic powder in with your melted butter it tastes just like the bread you get before your meal at the Macaroni Grill.
Weather seems to have strange effects on this bread.  Sometimes the exact same amounts of ingredients yields a dough that looks completely different than todays did.  But it always turns out delicious!
Oh, and that gross looking thing in my little boys hand is beef jerky.

Here's the recipe, written out like normal people do it.

Peasant French Bread
1 package yeast (2 1/4 tsp)
2 cups warm water
1 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
4 cups flour



Sabby in Suburbia said...

L-O-V-E homemade bread too! Something about fall makes me want it even more. I'll have to try your version out soon.

Mama Kat said...

Mmmmmm...fresh homemade bread. Slap a little butter on that baby and call it a day!

beth said...

Yummy! Your homemade bread looks delicious! I can smell it through my computer. Mmmmm. :) Hope you had a Happy Halloween. Beth.

Tiffani said...

I love this Mandy! I can't wait to bake it this week!

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