I love family. I love learning. I love food. This is simply a collection of thoughts, memories, and recipes that are a piece of me!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Basic Breads Make Mommies Happy.

I love bread.  Pretty much any carbs are friends of mine, but a really yummy yeasty homemade white bread, well, I'd marry it.  I love that I can avoid doing anything all day, throw a loaf of fresh bread into the oven, and magically have become the perfect 1950s housewife.  ...okay, so maybe I wouldn't go THAT far, but, I do love the feeling I get knowing such a basic pantry item can be made whenever I see fit by my own two hands.  Something about the simplicity of it is beautiful to me.  And it's easy.  Really easy.  Like, "why didn't I start doing this years ago?!" easy.  I have used this basic idea of a recipe for years now.  I have no idea where I got the first draft of it, but I've tweaked it numerous times and I really love how it turns out.  This is a super versatile recipe, too, so feel free to switch it up.  I've made it with cinnamon for a sweet bread and a couple of spoonfuls of Italian seasoning for an herb bread.  Both were lovely.  Oh, and it only takes about an hour to an hour and a half to make. So indulge and make this for dinner.  Tonight.

What you'll need:
2 cups of hot water (hottest you can get from the tap)
4 tsp of yeast (or 2 packets)
1 tbsp of sugar
1 tsp of salt
3 tbsp of oil
3 1/2 to 4 cups of flour

Start by adding your water to a big bowl.  Sprinkle your yeast in the water, then sprinkle the sugar over the yeast.  There's no need to even stir...just let it do its magic.

Once the yeast and sugar and water have set for a few minutes, the water is going to look milky and foamy.  This means the yeast "bloomed." At this point, add in your salt and oil.  Mix 'er up.

At this point, if you're using a mixer like I did, add in about half of your flour, mix it in, then add in the rest, a little at a time, until the dough is no longer sticky.  If you're not using a mixer (which is how I usually make it) add half of the flour, mix it with a big spoon, then add the rest of the flour a little at a time, mixing it in by hand, kneading it until the dough is not longer sticky and is elastic.

Even if you are using a mixer, you'll want to dump the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it for a second just to smooth it out.  Once it's ready, it will look like this.

Form it into loaf shapes and put it in two loaf pans.  Cover with a damp cloth, set aside, and let it rise for about 20 minutes.

Once the dough has risen, pop it in the oven and bake for half an hour (or until lovely and golden).  Here's a great tip my mom taught me: When your bread comes out of the oven, rub butter all over the top.  That keeps the top from getting hard, and it makes it extra delicious.  This recipe makes two loaves, so it's perfect if you want to freeze one...or if you want to share!

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