Friday, January 7, 2011

Back to Basics with Basic White Bread~

This morning I decided to give you some kind of pastry to eat with your hot chocolate. But personally, I don't like a sweet accompaniment of any kind with hot chocolate...I want coffee with sweet breads. So that preference brought to mind one of my favorite white breads, which you can toast and butter to eat with your hot chocolate.

I'm not sure that sounds as logical to you as it does to me, but I'm simply going to give you my favorite recipe for a white bread that makes delicious toast or French toast for breakfast, an easily sliced sandwich bread for lunch, and a nice bread to go with soup or other supper choices. The picture of the connected halves looks a lot like the bread I make, because I use a method given in the King Arthur Flour Cookbook in the instructions for shaping. I'll also remind you of Challah, which is a tasty egg bread, delicious with hot chocolate, hot tea or coffee! And I did make some Challah for Christmas, but I didn't take any pictures of it. Quinlyn and Michael were especially pleased with it and took some home to eat for breakfast.

King Arthur Flour Cookbook says: This is the bread that Frank Sands' father, Walter, President of Sands, Taylor & Wood Co., from 1941 to 1968, made faithfully once a week for years. Because of his arthritic hands, he used a bread bucket with a crank which kneaded hundreds of loaves of this fragrant bread with all its happy associations.

It's a classic white bread, very similar to our Hearth Bread but, because it has some fat and milk solids in it, it has a fuller, mellower flavor and it won't get stale as quickly. For a classic whole wheat version, see page 506 in the Whole Wheat Chapter.

Walter Sands' Basic White Bread

2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons sugar or honey
1 tablespoon or packet active dry yeast
1/2 cup dry milk (optional)
2 tablespoons butter, softened, or vegetable oil (I use olive oil.)
6 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon salt (or less if desired)

Making the Dough: Pour the warm water into a large mixing bowl. Add and let dissolve the sugar or honey and yeast. When the yeast is bubbling, add the dry milk, softened butter, 5 1/2 cups of flour and the salt. With a large spoon, stir this mixture until it begins to hold together. Pour the remaining 1/2 cup of flour on the surface you intend to use for kneading.

Kneading: Turn the dough out onto the floured board and knead until it begins to feel as if it belongs together, about 3 to 4 minutes, adding only enough flour to keep it from sticking to the board or you. Let it rest while you clean and grease your bowl. Continue kneading the relaxed dough until it feels smooth and springy, another 3 or 4 minutes.

Rising: Form the dough into a nice ball, place it in the greased bowl, turning it so the top is lightly greased also. Cover it and put it where it will be warm and cozy (no drafts). Let this rise until it has doubled (when you can poke your finger in it and the dough doesn't spring back at you.)

Shaping: Punch or knock the dough down, turn out onto your floured board and knead out any stray bubbles.
Cut it in half, form 2 loaves and place them in two lightly greased bread pans.
Or (as I do) divide the dough into 4 pieces. Form each piece into a round ball and place two, side by side, in each of two greased 4 1/2 X 8 1/2 inch bread pans.
Cover and let these rise until doubled. Be sure not to let the dough rise more than double, for it can cause the load to fall or "flatten out" while baking.

Baking: Fifteen minutes before you want to bake the bread, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. To make sure it's done, tap the bottom with your fingertips. If it sound hollow, it's done.

Cooling and Storing: Remove the bread from the pans immediately and place on cooling racks. When the loaves are thoroughly cool, break them all in half. Save one-half to enjoy immediately. Wrap the others in airtight plastic bags and freeze them. Thaw them out as needed and you will have a supply of bread that is "oven fresh."                                                            

This is a recipe that I've made many times, and it's a delicious bread, especially when it's hot out of the oven. As mentioned, there is a recipe with whole wheat flour which I'll give you at another time. I hope your weekend is wonderful!


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