Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Baking Bread

I am by no means an expert baker, but have been working at this recipe for several months now and have had consistently tasty results. Here is a tutorial for making plain white sandwich bread. This recipe makes enough dough for 2 loaves, but you could also make dinner rolls or hamburger buns. This time, I made one loaf and 10 dinner rolls.

In the bowl of a stand mixer combine 1 Tbsp active dry yeast and 2 Tbsp sugar. To this, add 1 3/4 cup rice milk (you can use regular, I'm just a non dairy gal) that has been heated to between 100 and 110 degrees. (Too cool and the yeast wont activate. Too hot and you'll kill it.)

Whisk until yeast is dissolved, then add just over 3 Tbsp of vegetable oil, whisk again. Let this sit for 5 minutes so the yeast has time to activate. It should look bubbly and frothy.

While the yeast is activating, weigh out 1 lb 8 oz of bread flour and measure 2 1/4 tsp of sea salt. After the yeast has activated, add around 1 cup of flour and the salt and turn mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment) to the lowest speed to incorporate. Then slowly add remaining flour, or as much as it takes to clean the side of the bowl. (I usually will have to add more, depending on humidity, up to 1/3 cup.) Pay attention to how much dough is sticking to the sides and underneath the paddle.
Remove the paddle and switch to the dough hook. Start mixer back on lowest speed and add another sprinkling of flour if needed. (It might not seem like much, but you can see the difference between how clean the bowl is with the paddle and how clean it is with the dough hook. You want a nice shiny bowl with nothing sticking to the sides.) Turn mixer up to medium speed and knead for 5 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and form into a ball. The easiest way to do this is to pull the sides together toward the back. Rotate, and repeat, so you're stretching the dough around to one point (the bottom of the ball.) The skin should be smooth and elastic with no tears. Pinch the dough together on the bottom to seal and gently shape. Transfer to a large, generously oiled bowl and cover tightly with saran wrap then a tea towel. Place in the oven (which is off) along with a shallow dish of steaming hot water. Allow to rise for one hour.
After the dough has doubled in size, punch down and remove from bowl. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
Gently work in your hands to remove excess air bubbles and form into a rough ball shape. Weigh the dough, then cut into 2 equal portions. Take one portion and repeat process of forming a ball to get the nice, tight smooth skin on top. Put this side of the ball down on your work surface. Using your fingers, gently press into a rectangle, about the length and width of a 9x5 bread pan. Working lengthwise, tightly roll the dough and pinch the seam to close. Turn ends under and pinch to close. Place in bread pan sprayed with cooking oil. Cover with a damp tea towel and place in your microwave with a cup of steaming water. Let rise 45 minutes.
Take second portion and divide into 2 oz portions (I ended up with 10.) Gently form each portion into the same ball as before, being sure to tightly pinch the bottom to close. Place ball on unfloured surface, cup your hands over top and roll until skin is tight. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, enclose in a plastic bag and let rise for 15 minutes.
Bake rolls at 375 degrees for around 15 minutes or until golden brown. Be sure you still have steaming water in your oven, they will continue to rise while baking.

After removing your rolls increase oven temp to 400 degrees. Put bread in oven (check that steaming water again!) and bake for 20-30 minutes or until browned. (Mine is usually done in just over 20.) Remove bread from pan asap and let cool on cooling rack. (To check doneness, tap on the bottom of the loaf, it should sound hollow.) Allow to rest at least 5 minutes before cutting.
And that's it! Hot, fresh and delicious. (I know there are are several steps, but each step in itself is very easy. I usually am able to make this while the kids are up and running around without a problem.) Let the bread cool completely then wrap in saran wrap, or better yet, stick in an old grocery store bread bag.


Margaret said...

I got as far as, "In the bowl of a stand mixer..." before I had to stop. Sigh! Guess that'll have to be the next kitchen appliance on my list...

Karen said...

You could make this by hand, but that takes more skill than I possess at the moment. I have never been able to reach that critical elastic skin stage kneading by hand, and am never sure if I've added enough flour. Using the mixer really does make it easier, and the "clean bowl" is a quick and easier verifier.

Margaret said...

Yeah, I had a hard enough time mastering the no-knead/no-fail bread recipe that I use, so I don't think I'm ready to make this by hand, either. But a woman I know might be offering a bread-making class in the near future, and if she does I'm all over it!

mell said...

i might have to try this. although, i don't quite understand the sealing into a ball and rolling part. guess i'd have to see you do it. do u ever make bread on friday afternoons?