There is just nothing quite like homemade bread. As much as I love chocolate, I am a bread lover through and through.
We purchased a Bread Bag today that is supposed to help your homemade bread stay fresher longer(as otherwise fresh bread can stale in as little as a day or two), and I am hoping it makes a difference. I will most likely cut the loaf in half, and slice it then put it in a freezer bag and keep it in the freezer to be taken out when needed. Bread can be frozen for 2-3 months.
As there is only the two of us, its hard for us to eat a whole loaf of bread before it can stale, and the storage problem has been the only thing stopping me from baking it more often.
It may seem intimidating to make your own, but its actually surprisingly simple. The most time is spent waiting for the dough to rise (two separate one hour rises). When I first made my own yeasted bread two years ago it was for the Bread and Honey Festival baking contest. I won second places for my whole wheat bread and my apple cinnamon bread, although I had never made bread before (save for one or two “test loaves”). It was incredibly hot that summer, and the loaves still turned out.
The only problem I did have with baking bread in those test loaves, was the loaf appearing finished, but still being doughy in the middle. You can avoid this by rapping on the side, the loaf should sound hollow. If you have a thermometer, finished bread should read between 205F and 210F in the middle…this is a fool proof way to know your golden brown bread is not uncooked inside.
This recipe is my go-to white bread recipe, from Ina Garten’s cookbook Barefoot Contessa at Home. It has a delicate crumb, and a wonderful crust. With this batch I switched out 2 cups of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat flour to increase the nutrition, and it turned out wonderfully.
Honey White Bread
Makes 2 loaves
1/2 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 packages dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 cups warm whole milk (110 degrees)
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 1/2 Tbsp honey
2 extra-large egg yolks
5-6 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp kosher salt
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Place warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Add yeast and sugar; stir and allow them to dissolve for 5 minutes.
After dissolving, the mixture is thick and bubbly
Add the milk, butter, and honey. Mix on medium speed until blended. Add the egg yolks, 3 cups of flour and the salt. (I switched out 2 cups of the all-purpose flour for whole wheat.) Mix on low speed for about 5 minutes. With the mixer still on low speed, add 2 more cups of flour. Raise the speed to medium and slowly add just enough of the remaining flour so the dough doesn’t stick to the bowl.
After adding 5.5 cups of flour. Though its still very slack, most the dough has lifted from the bowl, ready for kneading
Knead on medium speed for about 8 minutes, adding flour as necessary.
After 8 minutes of kneading. No or very little dough should be stuck to the bowl at this point.
Dump dough onto a floured surface and knead by hand for a minute, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Grease a bowl with butter, put the dough in the bowl, then turn it over so the top is lightly buttered. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and allow to rise for 1 hour, until doubled in volume.
Before first rise
After first rise
Grease two 9×5 inch loaf pans with butter. Divide the dough in half, roll each half into a loaf shape and place each in a prepared pan.
Roll dough out into a large rectangle, with the short side about as long as the side of your pan, in this case about 9” or 10”. Roll from the short side up like a jelly roll. Tuck ends under, and roll to close seams.
Place in pan seam side down.
Cover again with the damp towel and allow to rise again for an hour, until doubled in volume.
After second rise
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. When the dough is ready, brush the tops with egg white and bake for 40-45 minutes, until they sound hollow when tapped. Turn them out of the pans and cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
The scent in the house while these were baking was absolutely AMAZING! Instead of making two loaves, I made the second half into dinner rolls.
Source: Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home by Ina Garten, Clarkson Potter, 2006
I popped the rolls into an airtight freezer bag and put in the freezer. When we want them for dinner we’ll wrap them up in foil and pop in the oven at 350F until warm and crispy.
My husband stole about three or four(that I counted) before I could usher them to the freezer, exclaiming it was the best bread I’ve ever made…definitely what you want to hear!