Monday, January 30, 2012

Bread Baking Made Easy

A lot of people think that bread baking is difficult or complicated, but it doesn't have to be. After all, our fore-bakers managed to make bread without standard measuring cups, and in ovens without precise controls. Sure, bread recipes can be complicated. I have a bread-baking book that has a recipe that is 40 pages long.

Yes, 40 pages.

This recipe isn't anywhere near that complicated, and the ingredients are simple. The most unusual ingredient is bread flour, but if you don't want to buy that, you could use all purpose flour. It might take a little bit longer to knead if you use the all purpose, but it will still make a fine loaf of bread.

This bread also doesn't require any fancy techniques. You need to knead the bread, but you can do that in a stand mixer, or, if you don't have a stand mixer, you can knead it by hand. To make the kneading easier, the bread takes a short rest before the kneading begins, which helps activate the gluten.

Simple Sandwich Bread

1 cup lukewarm water
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg
3 cups (13 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of your stand mixer. Stir to combine, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 20 minutes.

Uncover the bowl and knead the dough with the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook until the dough is smooth and elastic. Remove the dough from the bowl, drizzle it with a little bit of olive oil, just to coat the surface, and return it to the bowl.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap again and set aside for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and have a 9x5 loaf pan on hand.

Flour your work surface and turn out the dough. Press it gently to deflate it, then form it into a log about 9 inches long to fit into the loaf pan. Place the dough, seam-side down, in the loaf pan.

Cover it with plastic wrap and set aside until the dough has risen just above the top of the loaf pan - about 40 minutes.

Bake the loaf at 350 degrees until it is nicely browned, about 30 minutes.

Remove the bread from the loaf pan and place it on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

This has been submitted to Yeastspotting.