Few people are crazy enough to bake bread when it’s 90 degrees outside. Julie said, “Baking bread is calming.” She lovingly stirred the yeast into warm water while our other roommate fanned herself and panted as she walked through the oven-hot kitchen.
Today we reverted back to Julie’s favorite reliable bread book, “The Bread Bible” by Beth Hensperger. Julie’s adaption of the recipe yielded two perfect loaves of fluffy white bread, which we proceeded to eat hot out of the oven and smothered with honey butter.
2 loaves/Adapted from The Bread Bible
- 1/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
- 1 tablespoon (1 package) active dry yeast
- Pinch of sugar
- 1 1/2 cups milk (105 to 115 degrees)
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon salt
- About 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour or bread flour
Pour 1/4 cup warm water into a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle the yeast and sugar over the surface of the water. Stir gently a few times to moisten. (Author’s great tip: If there is a lot of yeast to the stirring device, leave it in the mixture.) Let rest at room temperature (75-80 degrees) for about 10 minutes, until it has doubled or tripled in volume.
In a large bowl, whisk the remaining water, warmed milk, butter, honey, salt and 1 cup of flour. Beat for about 3 minutes until creamy. Slowly add 1/2 cup of the remaining flour at a time, until a dough forms that just clears the side of the bowl (meaning it doesn’t stick terribly). You might need more or less flour, the important part is to feel the dough. It should be “slightly stiff and sticky.”
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Fold the top edges halfway toward you then push with the heels of your hands to push away. Give the dough a quarter turn. Dust with flour as needed. Knead the dough for about 4-7 minutes, until the dough is “smooth and springy.”
Place the dough in a lightly greased deep bowl and roll it over so that the top gets greased as well. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the dough ball itself. Let it rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. This is the perfect excuse to take a nap. Test the dough by pressing a fingertip into the top of the dough to see if the indentation remains. It will fill back in quickly if it needs to rise more.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Grease the bottom and sides of two 9-by-5 inch loaf pans. Without working the dough further, divide it into two equal pieces with a knife. Form each into a long rectangle. Fold the dough into thirds, overlapping the two opposite ends in the middle. Beginning at the short edge, roll the dough up and pinch the ends and the long seam to seal. Place the loaves in the pans, tucking the edges under to give them a “snug fit.” Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise again at room temperature until the dough is fully doubled and about two inches over the rim of the pans, about 45 minutes.
Twenty minutes or so before baking, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the plastic wrap and, using a serrated knife, make a long slash lengthwise down the center of the loaf, no more than 1/4 inch deep. Bake for 30-40 minutes depending on your oven. We took them out at 30. The loaves should be golden on the top and bottom and be slightly pulling away from the pans. Both Julie and the author tap the top of the loaves. If they sound hollow, they are done. Run a knife along the edges and remove the loaves from their pans immediately onto a cooling rack. Let the loaves sit for at least 15 minutes before serving.