Sunday, March 6, 2016

Beautiful Bread

Our family is a bread family. We just are, there's bread and butter at the table nearly every night. We love great bread.

Even more so, I've come to love baking our bread. I used to shy away from a loaf bread because I could never get it to rise correctly. It would be either flat and dense or too light to stand up to sandwich use. I was ready to throw in the towel, then I stumbled across the Easy French Bread recipe in my More With Less cookbook. I started out making it as written in french loaves but soon realized I could replace our store bought sandwich bread with this easy bread. 

I experimented, never truly failing because we ate all the bread (even though one batch I made into breadcrumbs and croutons). After making a few changes to the recipe, this is what I've come to. Please try my recipe but feel free to make your own substitutions, that's half the fun:

8 cups flour (all purpose is fine but bread flour makes a huge difference in the elasticity of the dough since it has more protein)
1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) dry yeast (I buy a 2 pound package for $5 at Sam's Club and we use that up in about 2 years. You can also just use two of the square packets of yeast)
1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) liquid fat (I use olive oil but you can use any liquid fat like melted coconut oil or butter, it will change the taste slightly)
1/8 cup (2 Tablespoons) sugar (I use honey, but all that's important is that there is sugar to feed the yeast and make a nice fluffy bread) 
2 1/2 cups whey drained from making Greek yogurt (Yes, I make my own yogurt. Yes, I will be writing about it later. Yes, I understand almost no one has this lying around the house.)
OR 2 1/2 cups filtered water* (Filtering water removes the chlorine in city water which can kill the yeast)

Combine flour, yeast, oil, and honey in an electric mixer equipped with a dough hook. Turn on to speed setting just above lowest Stir setting (on mine this is #2)

Slowly pour whey (or water) as the mixer is going and let it knead the dough until nothing is sticking to the sides (about 5 min)

Take dough out of bowl and spray bowl with cooking spray. Replace dough and spray the top with cooking oil. 

Cover with a cloth and let rise for 1 1/2 hours in a warm place. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Punch down (really more like a poke is fine) and divide into 2 or 3 sections. 
These sections normally pan out for us (haha, pan pun intentional) perfectly in 2 regular loaves that peek out over the edge of the pan and a pizza crust; or two large loaves that pop up over, sometimes overflowing the pan, if you forget about them...not that I've ever done that.

When oven is preheated, put sections of dough into greased loaf pans. 
Bake for 35 minutes** until golden brown and hollow sounding when you thump the top of the loaf. 
Remove from pan and allow to cool on wire rack

The heel of a fresh baked loaf of bread that has been slathered in butter is ecstasy; so please, take this chance to enjoy this delicacy with gusto. 

God Loves You
Enjoy Life


*adjust baking time to 30 min
** If using water, baking time will be shorter

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