A Baking First: Fresh Bread
Yes, I suppose it’s hard to believe that I’ve never made homemade bread. The notion confuses me too. Pizza dough? Yes. Dinner rolls? Yep. Garlic knots? You bet. Brioche snails? Oh yes indeedy. I’ve been working with yeast for over a year now but have yet to work up the courage to make an actual loaf of bread. I’ll flat out admit it: I’ve been a chicken. But I’m tired of feeling like I’m wasting money on overpriced preservative-laden store-bought bread and when I was at the grocery store this weekend trying to pick the right type of bread for my upcoming Croque Monsieurs, I got frustrated. Nothing seemed right. So I decided on the spot that I would make my own bread. After all, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice has been patiently waiting for me to test it out since I purchased it back in December.
So I did my research yesterday, read all I could in the book about how to make a simple loaf of white bread. Three times. What?? I wanted to make sure I understood everything in order to reduce the amount of time it took me to make the dough this morning. And for my first attempt at making bread overall, it went very smoothly…thanks to my full understanding of the recipe. 🙂 I basically didn’t have any issues with the recipe but did need to add a little extra flour to the mixer, most likely due to the fact that I measured the flour rather than weighed it – not a big deal at all.
And when those loaves went into the oven, my stomach did little nervous flips. Would the dough rise during baking? Was using the egg wash a good move? Should I have reduced the oven temperature to accomodate for my dark(ish) nonstick loaf pans? Would I get a brick instead of a soft loaf of bread? Well…Yes. Yes. No. and No. It was a complete success!!!! I actually did a little happy dance after I removed the loaves from the oven and did the little ‘thump’ test on the bottom. It was seriously awesome bread!! Kyle and I polished off half of a loaf this afternoon alone! lol The bread was perfectly chewy, soft, and flavorful and screams, “Wonder’s got nothin’ on me!!!” I love this bread so much that I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to store bought bread, especially since the recipe yields two loaves (or dinner, burger or hot dog rolls), one or both of which can be frozen. Peter Reinhart’s masterpiece is certainly one of the best cookbooks I’ve ever read and is the perfect book for beginner bread bakers as well as more seasoned bakers. If you haven’t used any of his recipes, you really should check out this book to see what all the hubbub is about!
P.S. – HAPPY 2nd BIRTHDAY SMELLS LIKE HOME!!!! April 17th marked SLH’s 2nd year in the food blogging world and I couldn’t have been happier with how the last year has gone. As I sometimes feel like so much of my old stuff, as with most blogs, gets forgotten about, I’m going to employ the “1 year ago” and “2 years ago” feature at the bottom of every post. It will give me a way to share some older posts with you and hopefully refresh my memory about what great meals need to be brought back into our rotation. I hope you enjoy reminiscing with me!
One year ago: Tomato, Asparagus & Fontina Frittata
White Bread (Variation 1)
source: Peter Reinhart, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice, pages 266-267
- 4 3/4 cups (21.5 oz) unbleached bread flour
- 1 1/2 tsp (.38 oz) salt
- 1/4 cup (1.33 oz) powdered milk (DMS) – I used skim milk
- 3 1/4 tbsp (1.66 0z) sugar
- 2 tsp (.22 oz) instant yeast
- 1 large (1.65 oz) egg, slightly beaten, at room temperature
- 3 1/4 tbsp (1.66 oz) butter, margarine, or shortening, melted or at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp to 1 3/4 cups (13 – 14 oz) water, at room temperature
- 1 egg, whisked with 1 tsp water until frothy, for egg wash (optional)
- Sesame or poppy seeds for garnish (optional)
- Mix together the flour, salt, powdered milk, sugar, and yeast in a 4 quart bowl (or in the bowl of an electric mixer). Pour in the egg, butter, and 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp water and mix with a large metal spoon (or on low speed of the electric mixer with the paddle attachment) until all the flour is absorbed and the dough forms a ball. If the dough seems very stiff and dry, trickle more water until the dough is soft and supple.
- Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and begin kneading (or mix on medium speed with the dough hook – #3 on the Kitchenaid), adding more flour, if necessary, to create a dough that is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky. Continue kneading (or mixing) for 6 to 8 minutes. (In the electric mixture, the dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick ever so slightly to the bottom.) The dough should pass the windowpane test (page 58) and register 80 degrees. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.
- Ferment at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours , or until the dough doubles in size (the length of time will depend on the room temperature).
- Remove the fermented dough from the bowl and divide it in half for sandwich loaves, into eighteen 2-ounce pieces for dinner rolls, or twelve 3-ounce pieces for burger or hot dog buns. Shape the pieces into boules (page 72) for loaves or tight rounds (page 82) for dinner rolls or buns. Mist the dough lightly with spray oil and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Allow to rest for about 20 minutes.
- For loaves, shape as shown on page 81. (Flatten the measured piece of dough with your hand, folding in the edge to make an even-sided rectangle about 5 inches wide and 6 to 8 inch long. Working from the short side, roll up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease with each rotation to strengthen the surface tension. The loaf will spread out as you roll it up, eventually extending to a full 8 to 9 inches. Pinch the final seam closed with the back edge of your hand or with your thumbs. Rock the loaf to even it out; do not taper the ends. Keep the surface of the loaf even across the top. Place the loaf in a lightly oiled loaf pan. The ends of the loaf should touch the ends of the pan to ensure an even rise.) Lightly oil two 8 1/2 by 4 1/2-inch loaf pans and place the loaves in the pans. For rolls and buns, line 2 sheet pans with baking parchment. Rolls require no further shaping. For hamburger buns, gently press down on the rolls to form the desired shape. For hot dog buns, shape as shown on page 80, though without tapering the ends. Transfer the rolls or buns to the sheet pans.
- Mist the tops of the dough with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap or a towel. Proof the dough at room temperature for 60 to 90 minutes, or until it nearly doubles in size.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F for loaves or 400 degrees F for rolls and buns. Brush the rolls or buns with the egg wash and garnish with poppy or sesame seeds. Sandwich loaves also may be washed and garnished, or score them down the center and rub a little vegetable oil into the slit.
- Bake the rolls or buns for approximately 15 minutes, or until they are golden brown and register just about 180 degrees F in the center. Bake loaves for 35 to 45 minutes, rotating 180 degrees halfway through for even baking, if needed. The tops should be golden brown and the sides, when removed from the pan, should also be golden. The internal temperature of the loaves should be close to 190 degrees F, and the loaves should sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
- When the loaves have finished baking, remove them immediately from the pans and cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving. Rolls should cool for at least 15 minutes on a rack before serving.
Make two 1-pound loaves, 18 dinner rolls, or 12 burger or hot dog buns.