Tuesday, March 14, 2006

White Bread

This is a very good, solid white bread that freezes well, and will hold up for a few days after thawing. Stale, it makes excellent bread crumbs, croutons, or bread pudding. This is the standard bread I bake at the beginning of the week, and usually by the weekend, they are both used.

To do this right, you really need good loaf pans. By good, I mean heavy-of the sort one finds in commercial baking stores. It is worth investing the money in two good metal pans (I do not care for the way crust develops in glass) rather than cheap ones that won't withstand a few years of use. Mine are going on twelve years old and still perform like new.

Conversely, for scalding milk, I prefer a cheap, aluminum pan which does the job quickly and efficiently.

You will need: (makes two loaves)

1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/4 cup lukewarm water
2 cups milk, scalded
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
5-6 cups bread flour (more if using all purpose flour)
*variation-for a wheaten loaf, replace two cups of flour with whole wheat

Sprinkle the yeast into warm water. Let stand for a minute, then stir to dissolve and set aside. Scald the milk(Stand right next to the stove because the moment you turn your back for a second, it will boil over) and pour over the butter, sugar, and salt in a large bowl. Let cool to lukewarm. Add the yeast, and three cups of the flour to begin with. Depending on conditions and type of flour used, the amount of flour the mixture will take varies. Knead until smooth and no longer sticky, but take care not to add too much flour as you work or the dough will become tough.

Place bread in a buttered bowl, turn once and cover with plastic wrap and a towel. Let rise for 1 1/2-2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Punch down. Cover and let rise another 30 minutes.

Grease two 9x5x3 pans very well with butter (don't use spray). Shape into two loaves and cover again with a towel, letting them rise for another 45 minutes or until doubled. Set in a pre-heated 400 degree oven on the centre shelf and bake 35-40 minutes until they sound hollow when rapped on the bottom with knuckles. Cool out of pans on a rack.

To freeze: wrap cooled loaf in wax paper and then wrap tightly with plastic. I find this does a better job than freezer bags.