Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I'm Not Amish, But I Can Bake Bread

I love baking bread. There's something very nurturing about turning flour, yeast, and a handful of other ingredients into something warm and nurturing for my family. Something magical about watching the dough rise. Something therapeutic about punching it down and watching it rise to life again. And then there's the smell of bread baking in the oven and the simple pleasure of a slice of bread warm from the oven covered in fresh, real butter.

I've tried a lot of different breads with varying results, but currently this is my favorite for a plain, white bread.

Amish White Bread

¼ ounce dry yeast (1 pkg)
½ cup water
1/3 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 cups water
2 ½ tablespoons shortening

6-7 cups all purpose or bread flour
1/8 to ¼ cup butter

Dissolve yeast in ½ cup warm water (about 110 degrees). Combine sugar, salt, 2 cups water, and shortening. Stir in yeast mixture. Gradually add flour to form a soft dough. Mix with KitchenAid for 15 minutes with dough hook (speed 2). Let rise for about 2 hours. Punch down and divide into 3 loaves. Let rise higher than pans (about 2 hours). Bake at 375 for 20-25 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and brush with melted butter.

The original recipe called for dividing the dough in half and making only 2 loaves, but each loaf was so large that it wouldn't fit in my bread keeper.

I use my KitchenAid to knead the dough, but there's no reason you can't do it by hand if you are a traditionalist. Or by bread machine if you are more modern.

Myself? I like the combination of using a stand mixer for the heavy work and my oven for baking it the traditional way.

I should note that the last time I made this bread, I wrapped two of the loaves in waxed paper and put them into the freezer (after the first rise, but before the second rise). I was then able to just take out a frozen loaf, let it thaw and complete the second rise and then bake for a fresh loaf of bread - - - straight from the freezer.

Mmmmm. That loaf should be just about cool enough to eat now. A cup of tea, warm bread, and fresh butter. It just doesn't get any better than that.