Simple Loaf of Bread

This bread is soft and fluffy and the perfect in between of not a light yet not a dense bread. It’s great for breakfast, sandwiches, as a side with spaghetti and meatballs, or just with cheese. This recipe makes two big loaves and the total rise time is an hour.

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In the past I feared baking bread because the thought of working with yeast intimidated me. Also the amount of time needed to knead felt much. But after several years of making pizza dough and getting comfortable with that basic yeast dough, I ventured into the carbohydrate addict’s dark side …. freshly baked bread.

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After mixing the ingredients and the initial kneading of the dough—which is really all of 10 minutes—let it rest for 20-30 minutes. However, it is not an exacting recipe. If you forget to knead it at all and leave it to rise rise for an hour, it won’t turn around and hate you. The second rise is more important. It is best to let it rise until double (about 30 minutes). The longer it rises, the lighter the bread will be – which sometimes is not a bad thing.

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Homemade White Bread


Ingredients

  • 2 1/4 c warm water
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 5 cups flour¹

Directions

In a medium bowl with 2 1/4 cups warm water dissolve 1 Tablespoon sugar and 1 level Tablespoon yeast.

Into a separate large bowl, measure 5 cups of flour, 1 1/2 teaspoon salt and mix.

Once the yeast has activated make a well in the bowl with the flour and pour the yeast-water. Add 2 Tablespoons oil and using a fork, bring the dough together into a shaggy mess. (At this point, you can leave the dough to absorb the moisture for up to an hour. The result is that you will add less flour when it comes to kneading.)

Next, dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. And now begins the fun part: kneading. The secret to great bread is kneading. Do not be stingy about this. Set your phone timer to 10 minutes (even 15) and get started.

In the first minute or so, the dough comes together. Keep going. It now becomes this sticky mess – what?! It sticks to your hand and to the countertop. Relax. Don’t add flour yet. Just keep kneading. Kneading is much easier if you use the weight of your body rather than just the strength of your arms. After about 5 minutes of kneading, it starts to come together again and is not sticking to the counter so much. Keep going until the dough is smooth and elastic and strong. Enjoy working the dough and get used to the feel of it. After about 10 minutes it is done.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a plate, wet tea towel, or cling film to prevent it from drying out and getting that hard skin on the surface. Leave the dough to rise for 30 minutes to an hour. The dough should double in size (depending on how warm your kitchen is.

A good test to know it is “ready” is to poke your finger in the dough. When you remove your finger, the hole should still be there; it doesn’t spring back completely.

Sprinkle a little flour on the work surface. Remove the dough from the bowl and onto the surface and divide into two equal parts. It’s so stretchy (and still a little sticky – that’s ok)! Using your hands, stretch it into a rectangle-ish shape). Then roll it like a swiss roll. Pinch the ends of the bread into the dough so that it doesn’t open up. Repeat the process with second batch of dough.

When placing the bread on a lightly oiled baking tray for the second rise, leave the smooth side up. Put the side where you pinched the dough together down. Leave enough room on the tray for both loaves to expand. Or place in 2 loaf tins. Cover with cling film and leave to rise around 30 minutes.

When it has almost doubled in size, use a sharp razor blade (yes a wembe) or knife to cut gashes at an angle on the top of each loaf. (See this post on why it helps to cut/score bread).

Brush the surface of the bread with egg wash (one egg beaten lightly with a pinch of salt). If desired, sprinkle with sesame seeds or oats or just plain flour.

Bake for 30 minutes at 180ºC /375°F. Serve warm and enjoy!

¹Flour alternatives:

2 1/2 cups brown bread flour and 2 cups all purpose flour

1 cup rye flour and 4 cups all purpose flour


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