Saturday, February 27, 2010

Plain and Simple White Bread

Today's bread was dead simple. Almost lazy. Instead of using my KitchenAid stand mixer, I went with the food processor, just for the fun of it.

When I first seriously started making bread, it was an every-Sunday thing, and I had the timing of the mixing, rising, punching, shaping and baking pretty well coordinated with the laundry's wash, dry, fold, put-away cycle.

Back then, I didn't have the stand mixer, so I hand-kneaded or I used the food processor to make the dough.

Now, it's pretty much all kneaded in the stand mixer, with a little hand kneading if it needs that final touch.

But two days ago, I was feeling a little retro, so I decided to use the food processor. Yes, two days. I made the dough two days ago, but didn't bake it until today. Bread dough is forgiving like that, if your schedule gets jostled. And the flavor actually improves as it rests.

Plain and Simple White Bread

1 cup lukewarm water
2 1/4 teaspoons yeast (one package)
1 tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon olive oil

First, I put the water, yeast and sugar into a measuring cup and let it hang out a bit until it was frothy. The flour, salt and olive oil went into the food processor with the dough blade installed.

When the liquid was frothy, I turned on the processor and poured the liquid in through the feed tube. In no time a all, I had a ball of dough that was smooth and elastic and pretty warm, too, which gave it a jumpstart on the rising.

I formed a ball covered it with a little olive oil, put it into a bowl covered the bowl and let it rest.

When it was about half-risen, I realized that I wasn't going to have time to bake, so I punched the dough down, re-formed a ball, stuck it back into the bowl, covered it and stashed it in the fridge. I planned on letting it rest overnight, but didn't get around to making bread until today. The overnight or two day rest isn't essential for this recipe; it's just what I happened to do.

Today, I pulled the dough out and it had fully risen in the fridge, so I pulled it out of the bowl, gave it a little knead, and formed it like this:

I covered it with plastic wrap and set it in a warmish spot to let it rise.

Since it was cold in the house, the rise took a bit longer that usual.

Meanwhile, I preheated the oven to 350 degrees.

When it was fully risen, I sprayed it with some Quick Shine and sprinkled on some sesame seeds:

Quick Shine is a baking product that produces a nice shiny crust and helps seeds stick.

An eggwash would do the same thing, but some days I don't have another use for an egg.

After spraying and sprinkling, I slashed the loaf:

Into the oven it went at 350 degrees.

After ten minutes in the oven, it looked like this:

It was rising nicely.

After another 30 minutes, it was perfectly brown and done.

Here's the finished product:

And as always, I let it cool on a rack before slicing.