I love the smell of the yeast, I love the feel of the dough as I work it in my hands and I even love the waiting and proofing period you must go through as the yeast does its work and plumps up the dough as it rises to wonderful and amazing new heights (if your lucky that is). I even love dealing with the unknown factor, as I'm not always as successful as I like to be when handling the sometimes finicky ingredients. Even still, there is nothing that can compare to the "loaf" I feel for the homemade baked bread... perfect or not. Here, I'll show you what I mean.
With Valentine's Day falling on a Monday, we'd decided we'd like to celebrate in advance on Sunday. A day where there was time to relax and prepare an all out feast and do a wee bit of splurging for this special occasion. We excitedly shopped that morning at our local Costco and purchased our most extravagant ingredients ever: New York strip steaks and the most giant lobster tails I think I had ever seen! Along with the steak and lobster, I also planned on making a veggie side dish for my "French Friday's With Dorie" cooking group and kill two birds with one stone (if you will). Pancetta green beans were now on the menu as well. You'll definetly want to check back on Friday to see how I made these...they were amazing!!!!
As my mouth watered in anticipation, I wondered what else I could make that would bring this meal up and over the top as far as unforgettable meals go. How else can I show my loves at home just how much I care? Ah HA... let me break out the yeast and get to baking some wonderful, comforting, deliciously aromatic homemade white bread!!! Nothing else in the world says love like homemade bread baking in the oven!
Here is the recipe I used as my guide. :) One that I had never used before.
Basic White Bread
About 7 1/4 cups of all-purpose flour, divided (this measurement will vary depending on humidity level in your area)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 (1/4 oz) packages of active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup mile
3 tablespoons butter
-Combine 2 cups flour, sugar, salt and yeast in a large mixing bowl; stir well.
-Combine water, milk and butter and heat until butter melts, stirring often. Cool to 120 - 130 degrees.
-Gradually add liquid mixture to flour mixture, beating well with a wooden spoon.
-Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (approx. 10 minutes)
Now, I think I must have been a little nervous about making this video because just look at how much flour I put down on my counter. This is WAY too much flour and I think that was part of my issue of having my bread puff up unevenly like a partially deflated balloon. Do not make this same mistake! Do as I say, and not as you see :)
-Shape dough into a ball and place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled in bulk (approximately 1 hour)
There are two things I think could have been to blame for my error. Perhaps I had had my liquids too hot and the active yeast cultures had been killed off due to the too hot temperatures. Or possibly (as I stated above) the amount of additional flour I had on my kneading surface could have been enough to weigh what should have been a soft and elastic dough into too tough a ball. Whatever the reason, something had gone terribly wrong but I was determined to give it another go...My second attempt turned out soooo much better:
Now THAT'S more like it!!!
-Punch dough down and turn out on a "lightly" (make note again: do as I say, not as you see...) floured surface.
-Divide dough in half. Roll each into a long rectangle'ish (LOL) shape pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets (Take your time here and don't worry about the camera!!! I didn't do that very well).
-Pinch to seal the ends and place dough seam side down onto well-greased 9x5 inch loaf pans.
-Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes or until loaves sound hallow when tapped.
-Remove bread from pans immediately and cool on a wire rack.
See what I mean about deflated balloons? Oh well. They still smelled amazing and I knew they would taste just as good as a those snooty little perfectly formed and pretty loaves. So then, the moral of the story is: every loaf is different and it's not what shows on the outside that matters...It's what is on the inside that really counts!!!
Happy Valentine's Day dear readers. I wish you all a wonderful day filled with joy, love and laughter.