December 15, 2011

Easy White Bread

As much as I enjoy baking cakes and pies, muffins and cookies, I'd have to say bread is my favorite thing to make. It's like magic! You throw together a few simple ingredients, leave it alone for a time, and voilá, your mixing bowl is overflowing with that wonderfully smelling dough! You really can't go wrong with it. I always tell my kids one of the keys is to make sure your water is hot enough (when you're using active dry yeast). You don't want it so hot that it will kill the yeast, but it should feel quite hot to your finger. When I make bread for the day, I let dough rise in the oven with the light on. For my baguette, I usually make it the night ahead and let it rise slowly in our cool basement. The flavor is so much better this way! Recently on a rather long car trip, I did some research on ways of freezing bread dough. I figured, if you can get this stuff at the store, it can't be that hard to do. Bread doesn't last long around here, so I thought it would be great to try to have the dough on hand in the freezer. Well, after coming across some helpful tips, I thought I'd give it a whirl, fully expecting it would kill the yeast and be a flop! I made this simple, but delicious white bread below. It's from the King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion, which I highly recommend! I made the recipe as directed, only froze it in a bread pan after the first rise. I covered it tightly with plastic wrap and then a layer of heavy duty foil. I took it out about a week later, then let it rise in the pan as long as it needed to.

Exciting day! Visiting the
King Arthur Flour store in Vermont
I could not believe how beautiful it came out! I have to say, I'm quite impressed with these new pans from King Arthur also! And no, I'm not getting paid to advertise for them. :) I just love recommending a good product when I see one.....and I have tried a few different bread pans. I've done side by side "tests" between my KAF/USA pans and others that will remain nameless and the bread easily slips right out of these! I'm sold! I've been slowly trying to weed out my 20-year-old cheap pans and replace them with these. I'm one of those weird women who would love a bread pan just as much as jewelry! :) (I said just as much, not more, honey!)

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1-1/4 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons sugar
4 tablespoons butter
Waiting is the hardest part...
1/4 cup nonfat dry milk
1/4 potato flour, or 1/3 cup potato flakes
1-1/8 cups lukewarm water

Ready to go!
Combine all the ingredients and mix and knead them together-by hand, mixer, or bread machine-until you've made a soft, smooth dough. Add a little more flour or water as needed, however, remember if you add too much flour, your dough will be heavier and drier. Place in a large, lightly greased bowl; cover and let rise for one hour, until puffy (not necessarily doubled in bulk). Transfer the dough to a lightly greased work surface and shape it into an 8-inch log. Transfer the log to a lightly greased 8-1/2 x 4-1/2-inch loaf pan, cover the pan, and let the bread rise until the outer edge has risen about one inch above the rim of the pan, about one hour. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Uncover the pan and bake the bread for 35 to 45 minutes, tenting lightly with foil for the final 10 to 15 minutes if it appears to be browning too quickly. Remove the bread from the oven, take it out of the pan, and place it on a wire rack to cool completely. After 15 minutes, brush it with butter, if desired; this will give it a soft crust.
A perfect loaf!

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