Everyday Bread

Every baker has a favorite bread recipe: this is mine. I eat it mostly as toast for breakfast but it also makes great sandwiches. It is quite light and actually seems to improve with a day’s sitting. The recipe makes about 1380g (3 lbs.) enough for two standard-sized (8” x 4” x 2”) loaves or three smaller ones (7” x 3” x 2”). Sometimes I bake three loaves at once and freeze one or two for later; sometimes I bake one and freeze the formed loaves for baking later. In the latter case, I just put the frozen loaf in a pan to thaw and rise for a few hours before baking.

A note on measurements: it is nearly impossible to achieve consistent results baking bread by volume—only gravimetric measures are accurate enough. (The weight of a cup of flour can vary by 10% or more.) Digital kitchen scales are very inexpensive today and every serious cook should own one. For making bread I much prefer to use metric units because they are more precise. Even those not familiar with the metric system can use it by simple setting the scale accordingly.  

I adapted this recipe from Sarah R. Labensky and Alan M. Hause, On Cooking: Techniques from Expert Chefs (Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall: 1995), 796-797.

Ingredients

 

Whole wheat flour

100 grams

4 ounces

Unbleached white bread flour (T65)

580 grams

1 pound 4 ounces

Warm water

340 grams

12 ounces

Dry milk powder

35 grams

1¼ ounces

Honey (or sugar)

30 grams

1 ounce

Salt

15 grams (10 milliliters)

½ ounce (2 teaspoons)

Active dry yeast

15 grams

½ ounce (2 envelopes)

Canola oil or melted unsalted butter

30 grams

1 ounce

Eggs

2 large

2 large

Method

Weigh the flours into a bowl. Put the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer onto the scale and zero it out. Add the warm water then zero the scale again. Add the milk power, honey, salt, yeast, and oil, zeroing the scale after every ingredient. Remove the bowl from the scale then add the eggs and about a quarter of the flour. Mount the bowl on the mixer fitted with the paddle beater. Starting on low stir the ingredients together, then increase the speed to medium and beat until smooth.

Replace the paddle beater with the dough hook. Add the remaining flour to the bowl. Knead on the recommended speed setting for your mixer. After about five minutes the dough should be pulling away from the sides of the bowl. If it does not, add more flour a bit at a time until it does. Knead for a further five minutes.

At this point I like to weigh the dough to make dividing it later more accurate.

Warm a large, heavy earthenware or glass bowl with hot water then dry and pour in enough oil to just cover the bottom. Form the dough into a large ball, place it in the bowl, and roll it around so that it is evenly coated with the oil. Cover with a kitchen towel and set aside to proof until doubled in size, about one to one and a half hours depending on the temperature. Note that a long rising at a lower temperature yields a more finely-textured bread.

At the end of proofing, punch down the dough and divide it into whatever size loaves you prefer. Form the loaves and place them in lightly-oiled pans. Cover with a towel and allow to rise again until the dough is just above the sides of the pan.

Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C) for small loaves or 375°F (190°C) for large ones (I use the convect pastry setting on my convection oven at 375°). Bake for 35 minutes for small loaves to 50 minutes for large ones. The best way to determine doneness is with a thermometer; the center of the loaf should be between 200°F and 210°F (93°C and 99°C).

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