Monday, September 20, 2010
James Beard's "County Fair Bread"
I've had a love affair with making yeast breads since I was a teenager. The first thing I'd ever attempted to cook in my mom's kitchen was a Betty Crocker recipe for white bread. I remember that my mom and dad had been out somewhere that Sunday afternoon and I needed to borrow some ingredients from our next door neighbor, Mrs. Rogers, to be able to complete my first culinary vision.
I don't remember specifically how my first two loaves turned out but I do remember bringing one of them to Mrs. Rogers as my way of saying thank you. I sincerely doubt I would have been willing to share my white bread loaf had it been a gigantic failure. From that time on and for many years after, I always made my mom and dad loaves of white bread as their anniversary gift from me.
Here is what James Beard has to say about this "County Fair Bread" in his book:
"When well made, this slightly sweet braided loaf looks exactly as if it would win first prize at the fair. The flavor is good and the texture is very light. This is a nice bread to give away for a holiday present." See? Told you!
5 to 5 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 stick butter, cut into small pieces
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 egg white, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water
* Kosher salt and pepper for top (my addition)
In a large mixing bowl combine 1 cup of the flour, the sugar, salt and dry yeast. In a small saucepan, heat the milk and the butter, just until the milk is warm. The butter does not need to melt.
Add the eggs and the warm milk mixture to the flour mixture. Mix very well until thouroughly moistened, and beat with a wooden spoon for about 5 minutes.
Stir in the remaining flour to form a stiff dough. Turn out onto a floured board and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 more minutes. Work into a ball, place into a buttered bowl, and turn to coat with butter on all sides. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until light and doubled in bulk, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Pretty giant size, huh? Punch the dough down (see my fist?) and divide into six equal portions.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes or until loaves sound hallow when tapped. They should be a nice golden brown in color. Cool and slice when you can't wait any longer.