Homemade bread is such a worthy endeavor. Even though working with a yeast dough may seem a little intimidating, it really isn’t. Waiting for it to rise, then rise again, guessing how much flour is enough – all of this may stop you from one of the most rewarding experiences in the kitchen. Don’t let it.
Making bread is so easy and it’s so satisfying when a few simple ingredients come together to form a crusty, delicious loaf. There is nothing that can even begin to compare to the smell of homemade bread wafting throughout your home. Even plain toast goes to another dimension when you make it from homemade bread. This is a recipe from Cook’s Illustrated that I like to use. Using milk and butter makes it slightly sweet, which I really like, especially for toast or breadcrumbs.
Yields: 1 loaf
1 cup milk
1/3 cup water
1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar or 3 Tablespoons honey
3 Tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
2 teaspoons salt
4 cups of flour
Warm up the milk and water until they are 105-115 degrees. It should feel like warm bath water. Dissolve the yeast and sugar in the milk and water and allow to stand just until foamy, about 5 min. For some types of yeast this step isn’t necessary.
Add the butter and salt to the liquid ingredients. Add the flour and mix until it’s all incorporated into the dough. You can use a standing mixer with a dough hook attachment, or the dough setting on a bread machine. You can also use your hands.
If you use your hands, knead the dough really well. The longer you knead, the better the bread will turn out.
Allow the dough to rise for about 20 minutes in a warm place.
Punch the dough down, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow to rise until it doubles in size, about 40-60 min.
My favorite way to do this is to heat the oven to 200 degrees, turn OFF the oven and keep the dough in the warm oven. Another great place to let the dough rise is by wrapping it in a heated blanket and keeping it on the low setting.
If you’re using a bread machine, it will do all this for you. Take out the dough and pat it into a rectangular shape on a lightly floured surface. Roll the dough tightly, starting on the short side, into a cylinder. Roll it up as tightly as you can, so that your bread won’t have any big gaping holes in it. Place into a greased bread pan. Lightly spritz the top of the bread with a little oil, cover gently with plastic wrap and let it rise again, until it doubles in size. (Or you can spritz the plastic wrap with oil instead of the bread.)
Once the bread rises, melt 1/2 Tablespoon butter and brush it on the bread. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the bread for about 40 min.