Saturday, August 29, 2009

Recipes: Bread From Scratch

This is not my recipe. I found it on Allrecipes.com, and it worked so well for me - and turned out no matter how many substitutions I made - that I adopted it as my permanent bread recipe.  I've substituted various oils for butter when I was out of it (just don't use anything a strong flavour, like olive oil). I've even used corn syrup instead of honey. (I imagine molasses would work too, maybe with dark rye flour and a little caraway to make a nice pumpernickel loaf!) I sometimes forget the salt, which doesn't affect the rising or texture of the loaf, just makes it a bit sweeter than my liking.You do need at least half of the flour to be all purpose or bread flour though, for the gluten to make it rise nicely. Notice that I don't use bread flour myself - all purpose requires a little more kneading, but is cheaper and more convenient for me. So, here goes:

Bread From Scratch

3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
1 tbsp active dry yeast (quick rising)
1/3 cup honey or white sugar
5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
3 tablespoons melted butter or oil
1/3 cup honey or brown sugar
1 tablespoon salt
3 1/2 cups flour (whole wheat, rye, oat or all purpose)
2 tablespoons butter, melted (optional)

In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups white bread flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly. Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. Stir in 2 cups whole wheat flour. Generously flour a flat surface and knead with more flour until not real sticky - just pulling away from the counter, but still a bit tacky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. Place in an oiled bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel or plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled. Punch down, and divide into 4 loaves. Place in greased medium loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch. Bake at 350° F for 30 minutes. Turn out of pans onto wire racks and let cool before slicing.

Tips:
Rising: I let my dough do all its rising in my oven. First I briefly preheat the oven just to warm (not hot), and put a large cake pan full of hot water on the bottom rack. Then I put the dough on the next rack up, with the oven light on to maintain the heat, and close the door.
Baking: Later, when it's time to bake the bread, I leave the pan of water in during baking, which gives the loaves a nice brown and crusty top without a professional steam-injected oven. I also leave the risen loaves in the oven during preheating - it doesn't hurt them, and it prevents them from falling before they start baking. Freezing: Since my oven doesn't accommodate 4 loaves at once, I usually divide the dough after the first rising and freeze half for later in the week. To use frozen dough, thaw overnight in fridge or for a few hours on the counter, then knead and shape into loaves for second rising. Do not over-knead.

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