August 29, 2010

My First Loaf of White Bread

When we lived in Boston, I tried many times to work with yeast (in pizza dough). I didn't have any luck. I decided that yeast was going to be my arch nemesis. I gave up using it. When we moved to Colorado, I read about baking at a higher altitude. I thought to myself that if I couldn't work with yeast at sea level, then I really wouldn't have any luck with it at 5,000 feet above sea level.

I checked out some cookbooks from our local library. One of them was The Art & Soul of Baking. The first chapter was on "Yeast Bread and Rolls". The cookbook went into a lot of detail about making bread with yeast. I found it very helpful and educational. I had some leftover yeast, so I decided to give it a try again, just to see if I had any luck.

For my first high altitude yeast attempt, I went with the recipe for Old-Fashioned White Bread. The recipe seemed pretty basic and easy. I thought if it didn't work out then, I wouldn't have wasted much time and energy on it. 

To my surprise, I was actually successful with yeast!! I have been so proud of myself for making a loaf of bread. I didn't let the yeast defeat me. :) I'm not sure what I was doing wrong in Boston, but it worked for me in Colorado. Maybe I wasn't using the right recipe, but now I have found one that works. I have since made pizza dough again, it was a success too. (I will share the pizza dough in a later post, so hold on to your seat for that one.) ;)

The bread smelled delicious while it was baking in the oven. I couldn't wait to eat it, but I did let it cool for a bit before slicing it. I topped it with butter, while it was still a little warm. Oh, so yummy! It was a great feeling to eat the bread, knowing that I made it from scratch.

Sadly, I got sick the day after I made the bread (but not from the bread), so I didn't get a chance to take a picture of it sliced. That's why I only have one picture.

The cookbook also lists a variation on the recipe, it can be made into Monkey Bread! I want to try that soon.

Old-Fashioned White Loaf

1/4 cup warm water (110 to 115 degrees)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast, or 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup warm whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 cups bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg, lightly beaten

Place the water, sugar, and yeast in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Allow mixture to sit for 10 minutes, or until yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling. In a medium bowl, whisk together the warm milk and melted butter.

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of the stand mixer. Mix for 1 minute on medium speed to blend. Add the yeast mixture and milk mixture and mix on medium speed just until the dough comes together, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and let the dough rest for 20 minutes to allow it to fully hydrate before further kneading. Turn the speed to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough is firm, elastic, and smooth, 3 to 6 minutes.

Lightly oil a tub or bowl, scrape the dough into the tub, and lightly coat the surface of the dough with a little oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and let the dough rest until doubled, 45 to 60 minutes (longer if the room is cold). If you are using a tub, be sure to mark the starting level of the dough with a pencil or piece of tape so it's easy to tell when the dough has doubled.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don't knead the dough again or it will be too springy and difficult to shape. Press the dough into a flattened rectangle whose long sides are a couple of inches shorter than the long sides of the bread pan. Arrange the dough so a long side is parallel to the edge of your work surface. Fold the long side opposite you up into the center of the rectangle. Fold the long side nearest you into the center. Use the heel of your hand to press the two edges together. Turn the dough 90 degrees. Roll the short side opposite you toward the center, and with each roll press your thumbs into the crease to seal it and to create tension on the outside of the dough. When you reach the bottom edge closest to you, use your fingers to pinch the final seam closed. The dough should be the same length as your baking pan. If it is short, gently roll it back and forth on your work surface, pressing slightly to elongate the dough. If it is too long, squeeze the dough together slightly to shorten it, and tuck the ends under if necessary. Place the dough, seam side down, in the pan.

Lightly oil the top of the dough to keep it moist. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and allow the dough to rise again until its top is 1/2 to 1 inch above the rim of the pan, 45 to 60 minutes. (My loaf did not rise above the edge of the pan, but it still turned out well).

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and position an oven rack in the center. Brush the top of the loaf with a thin film of the beaten egg. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. until the bread is golden and the internal temperature registers 200 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a rack to cool completely. Slice with a serrated knife.

Hat Tip - The Art & Soul of Baking by Cindy Mushet

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