My eye has finally recovered from laser surgery!! So, this means back to the kitchen to do some baking…ahhhhh 🙂 Since it’s been a bit of cake overdose lately, I decided to try something a bit different: BREAD MAKING. Yes. There’s emphasis there since I always just thought, bread, bleh. Didn’t know much skill was required but I was so wrong!! Bread making is a skill that perfects with trial and error and it tests your patience like you won’t believe. Let’s just say bread making is not for those that likes that wait anxiously by the oven and wait for your baked goods to rise.
Why? Bread requires yeast and yeast takes time to proof. But when it does proof, it SERIOUSLY proofs and the texture of the risen dough is so cute. It’s like poking into the Pilsbury Dough Boy…hehehe. But wait. It’s NOT just a one time wait. To make it the lightest and fluffiest ever (aside from heavy duty kneading), you need to punch out the air and re-proof again.
The end result though? SO MUCH WORTH THE WAIT! Let’s just say I won’t be going back to store-bought breads again…hehehe.
Here’s the holy grail recipe I found and I altered the ingredients a bit to suit the ingredients I had readily on hand:
Light Fluffy Bread (Source: Adapted from SmittenKitchen.com)
Recipe makes one two-pound loaf or two nicely-sized half-pound loaves 🙂
– 4 cups all purpose flour (you can always use a mixture of bread flour or whole-wheat flour as the original recipe called for)
– 1 1/2 tablespoons honey (or granulated sugar or any other sweetener of choice!)
– 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
– 1/2 cup milk (or 3 tablespoons of powdered milk as original recipe called for)
– 1 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
– 2 tablespoons margarine (or shortening or unsalted butter as original recipe called for)
– 1 1/4 cups water, warm (don’t make it boiling hot as this will kill the yeast!)
1. Stir together the flour, sugar (if using/ if using honey, wait!), salt, powdered milk (again if using. if using fresh milk, wait again!) and yeast in a large mixing bowl (or in bowl of an electric mixer).
2. In another bowl, combine the margarine (or shortening/ butter), honey (if using), and water. Stir and then add into the flour mixture. Stir by hand (or highly recommend to mix on low speed with the paddle attachment with an electric mixer) until the ingredients form a sticky ball. If there is still flour in the bottom of the bowl, dribble in additional water. The dough should feel soft and supple. It is better for it to be a little too soft than to be too stiff and tough.
3. Sprinkle flour onto the counter and transfer the dough to the counter to knead (or again highly recommended, mix on medium speed with the dough hook). Add more flour if needed to make a firm, supple dough that is slightly tacky but not sticky. Kneading by hand should take around 10 minutes and if by electric mixture around 6 minutes.
4. Lightly oil a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and to ensure maximum proof, cover with a towel and put in a warm, air-sealed spot (I put mines in an unheated oven!).
5. Ferment at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until the dough doubles in size (see…..this is were the “being patient part” kicks in)
6. Remove the dough from the bowl and punch out the air. Then press is by hand into a loaf shape. Since I didn’t have a loaf pan, I just stretched it to a rectangle then rolled it to resemble a round loaf. If you have a loaf pan and want the perfect look, the original recipe suggests: Press it by hand into a rectangle about 3/4 inch thick, 6 inches wide, and 8 to 10 inches long. Form it into a loaf by working from the short side of the dough, rolling up the length of the dough one section at a time, pinching the crease with each rotation to strengthen the surface tension. It will spread wider as you roll it. Pinch the final seam closed with the back edge of your hand or with your thumbs.
7. Place the loaf in a lightly oiled 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch bread pan OR as I did on a greased, parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Mist the top with spray oil and loosely cover with plastic wrap.
8. Proof for the second time (be patient- it’s worth it!) for approximately 60 – 90 minutes (I achieved a good proof at around 60 minutes).
9. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and back on the middle rack for 35 minutes (original recipe called for a total of 45 minutes to 1 hour, but I found 35 minutes ideal for a light loaf with a slightly chewy texture which I love). Rotate the pan 180 degrees for even baking in the middle of the baking time (i.e. around 15 minutes into baking). The top should be slightly browned and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom.
10. When the bread is finished, remove it immediately and cool a bit then DIG IN!!! Original recipe asks you to wait 1 – 2 hours before cutting, but I couldn’t resist….:)