Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Simple pleasures

I ask you, is there anything more wonderful than the smell of bread baking? Not just any bread mind you but the quintessential American white sandwich bread. There is something so comforting about the sweet yeasty smell that fills the house right before you take a high crowned loaf with a golden brown crust out of the oven. It is all we can do not to rip the bread apart before it even gets out of the pan.

MBH says that just like the 2nd law of Physics, the one that says for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, you can tell my stress level by the number of things coming out of the oven/off the stove. Weekend count: 1 loaf of Farmer's White, 1 loaf of honey whole wheat, 1 large baguette of sourdough, 1 large almond cherry cheese tea ring from the sourdough toss-off starter, 1 batch brownies and one large batch of beef stew. I don't feel stressed anymore.

Farmer's White Bread:
This is the best no-fail bread recipe I have ever used. The loaf is high, the crumb fine and the smell as it bakes...oh heavenly! (SHHH, the secret is in the sponge)

9 oz water
2 tsp yeast
3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour (11 - 13% gluten)
1/4 cup bread flour (13% or higher gluten)
1/4 cup dry milk
1/4 cup butter (melted)
1 1/2 teaspoons of salt
3 tablespoons of sugar

Step 1: Sponge
Mix 1 tsp yeast, 1 1/2 cup of the all purpose flour and the 9 oz of water in a 2 quart glass bowl or Tupperware container. Cover with plastic wrap or lid and let it sit for 3 hours in 70 degree room. (This time will be longer in cool room or shorter in warmer room). Tip: If your oven has a light, turn the light on and put the sponge in the oven to rise.

Step2: Make the dough
Combine the rest of the ingredients except for the remaining all purpose flour. Add the remaining flour 1/2 a cup at a time until the dough is firm but still a little shaggy. Sprinkle a little flour on a good clean surface and flour your hands to finish kneading the dough; only about 5 minutes or so or until you see the development of gluten. Dough will be smooth and elastic feeling when it is ready. Put in oiled bowl or proofing container and let rise until double, about 2 hours.

Step 3: Form loaf
Punch dough down and press into rectangle about 12" x 5" Fold rectangle into 3rds and place seam side down in large greased glass loaf pan. brush a little melted butter on top of loaf, cover with plastic wrap and let rise until top of loaf touches plastic wrap. Remove plastic wrap and let loaf rise until about 2 inches above rim of loaf pan.

Step 4: Bake
In 350 degree preheated oven, bake bread for 30 - 35 minute or until internal temperature is 190 degrees. If crust begins to get too brown, cover with foil until last 5 minutes of baking. Remove from oven and pan when done and let cool about 2 hours before slicing...if you can ;-)