June 13, 2011 § 1 Comment
My mom started it; she baked bread for the entirety of my life. I thought it was normal to have preservative-free, fresh, delicious bread and bread products in the fridge and scattered around our counters. I’ll admit, when I was in grade school with hunks of brown bread smeared with Teddie’s All-Natural peanut butter and homemade strawberry jam (“what is THAT?”), I would have traded my recess time for my classmate’s Wonderbread with Jiff and Smuckers jelly. I would trade my firstborn for my mom’s thick, satisfying hunk of a PB&J sandwich now. (Okay, a little extreme, but you get the gist.) College food was an experience I was not ready for. What was all this white, fluffy bread that required me to eat 1/2 a loaf of to feel full? Needless to say, when I moved off campus to an apartment, my exploration into learning the art of baking bread commenced. This happens to be one of the best that I’ve found so far; it’s not too dense and has the right flavor. The texture comes from the time you spend on it, but I was particularly happy with this batch. It’s easy, and fits in well on a weekend day when you have projects around the house or short errands to run.
Ingredients (Makes 1 loaf or 7 rolls):
1 packet of dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees F)
*3/4 cup of tepid buttermilk (90 degrees F – using a finger test is fine, warm in microwave)
**1/8 cup maple syrup
1/8 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 tsp salt
2 ½ + cups of wheat flour (You will have to use your own discretion on this; it depends on how your dough forms. I recommend King Arthur Flour. It’s more expensive than generic brands, but it tastes a lot better.)
*Since I never have buttermilk, I make my own. Take ¾ cup of regular milk, add 1 T of white or apple cider vinegar, and wait about 5 minutes. Presto!
**You can use honey or light molasses in the place of maple syrup
1. In a measuring cup, sprinkle the yeast and brown sugar over the water; stir to dissolve. Let it stand until it’s foamy (approx. 10 minutes). This is actually called “proofing”. Proofing is a technique that’s used to make sure your yeast is active. In the past, yeast has not always been as consistent, and a baker could end up with a flat, unattractive loaf.
2. In a mixer (or bowl), combine buttermilk, maple syrup, oil, salt, and 1 cup of whole wheat flour. Beat lightly until creamy. If you are lucky enough to have a mixer, use the paddle attachment.
3. Beat/stir in yeast mixture and another cup of flour. (Mixer-owners: switch to the bread hook.
4. Knead (on low speed or with a spoon) while you slowly incorporate more flour. When it’s ready to knead on a board, it should form a ball around the bread hook or be smooth but slightly sticky to the touch.
5. Lightly flour a surface and your hands. Take the dough and fold and squish it repeatedly. (Here are some helpful illustrations: http://www.wikihow.com/Knead-Dough.)
6. Lightly oil a deep bowl, place dough ball in and roll once (to evenly coat the surface of the dough). Cover loosely with plastic wrap and a clean dish towel. Let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1-1 ½ hours. Punch the dough down with lightly oiled knuckles.
7. Lightly grease a bread pan or a baking sheet. Divide dough for rolls (roll in palms and place on sheet) or press dough into bread pan.
8. Cover lightly in plastic wrap and the clean dish towel. Let rise again, for 30 minutes – 1 hour (depending on climate, if it’s hotter and more humid, it should take less time). The loaf should rise about 1 Inch above the pan. The rolls should been well rounded and larger.
Pre-heat the over to 350 degrees F. Bake until golden brown (35-40 minutes for loaves; 16-20 minutes for rolls). Remove from oven and move to cooling racks.