We’re in the dog days of winter here in Utah. It’s snowing as I write this which means for at least one more day I will not see any sunshine. (*wipes proverbial tears*) It’s depressing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the kind of depressed person who stays in bed all day with PJs and bad breath due to depression. Rather, my ‘winter blues’ lead me to avoid the already mundane laundry and bake instead. I guess I’m grasping for anything that will bring a little sunshine in my life. For me, that’s baking. So that’s what I did yesterday—I baked bread. It made me happy, it made my kids very happy, and it helped me get through at least one more horrific day of winter.
I usually make 2 loaves of bread at a time. If my mixer could handle more dough, I would make 4 or 5. But I’ll settle for two. Never settle for one loaf. Why bother? You gotta eat one loaf hot and save the other for dinner and breakfast. :)
The best way to know when you’ve added enough flour is when the dough pulls away from the side of the mixer. I always use more than the recipe requires. I still scratch my head over that one. In other words, it no longer looks like the above picture, but looks like the one below.
I then dump the dough into a well greased bowl and set it in my warm oven for 1 hour to rise. I warm my oven by heating it up for 2-3 minutes then turning it off. Why? Because even with the heater at 70 degrees my house is too cold to have the dough rise in just 1 hour. And I’m impatient.
Ah, that’s better, now it’s been an hour and the dough is doubled. (Sorry the photo is yellowed. Too lazy to fix it.) Shape your dough into loaves, place in greased 9x5 bread pans, spray the dough, cover in plastic wrap, and place back in warm oven for 30 minutes. (You might have to heat the oven for 2-3 minutes again.)
Wow, the magic of yeast never ceases to amaze me! Not bad for just 30 minutes puffifying in the oven, huh? Now you need to heat your oven to 350, remove the saran wrap, then put the bread back in the oven to bake for 40-50 minutes and until it reaches the magic number of 195 degrees. Using a thermometer ensures your bread will be perfectly cooked without being too dry.
Remove from pans, slather with butter for a softer crust (I don’t like my crust crunchy for this kind of bread…..now for garlic bread, that’s a different story). Resist the urge to cut it up for at least 15 minutes. Distribute warm slices to the restless natives with butter, jam, cinnamon sugar, whatever. And give yourself 10 points in the Mother of the Year contest.
SANDWICH BREAD (makes 1 loaf—double this as many times as your mixer will allow) (originally from cooksillustrated.com or American Classics)
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I use half wheat flour…which removes some guilt in slathering later with butter)
2 tsp salt
1 cup milk or water, very warm but not hot
1/3 cup water, very warm but not hot
2 T melted butter
3 T honey
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1. Mix flour and salt in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Mix milk, water, butter, honey, and yeast in 1-quart Pyrex liquid measuring cup. Turn machine to low and slowly add liquid. When dough comes together, increase speed to medium (setting number 4 on a KitchenAid mixer) and mix until dough is smooth and satiny, stopping machine two or three times to scrape dough from hook if necessary, about 10 minutes. Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface; knead to form smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.
3. Place dough in very lightly oiled bowl, rubbing dough around bowl to lightly coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; place in warm oven until dough doubles in size, 40 to 50 minutes.
4. Form dough into loaf by gently pressing the dough into a rectangle, one inch thick and no wider than the length of the loaf pan. Next, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn dough seam side up and pinch it closed. Place dough in greased 9-by-5-by-3-inch loaf pan and press gently so dough touches all four sides of pan.
5. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in warm spot until dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes. Heat oven to 350 degrees, placing empty loaf pan on bottom rack. Bring 2 cups water to boil. (I never do the water in the oven thing. Too lazy.)
6. Remove plastic wrap from loaf pan. Place pan in oven, immediately pouring heated water into empty loaf pan; close oven door. Bake until instant-read thermometer inserted at angle from short end just above pan rim into center of loaf reads 195 degrees, about 40 to 50 minutes. Remove bread from pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.
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