This recipe is a combination of this cottage loaf recipe and split pan bread from this book about "the breads of the world and how to bake them at home." The first recipe sounded like the most appealing combination of ingredients, but I wanted to bake the bread in a loaf pan, because the shape of a traditional cottage loaf is a little unwieldy and I wanted bread that was easy to put into the toaster (of which Paul is totally ashamed because it brands a Hello Kitty onto one side of the bread, but, hey, it's already lasted over 5 years).
4 cups white bread flour*
2 teaspoons salt
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup water
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- Sift flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
- Heat the milk and water in a small saucepan over medium heat until a thermometer reads 100-110 degrees fahrenheit.
- Stir the sugar and yeast into the flour/salt mixture, make a well in the center and pour in the heated milk and water. (If you're unsure whether your yeast is still alive, you'll want to change this method so you can bloom your yeast.)
- Use a wooden spoon to stir the dough. Don't worry about the mixture not being very cohesive. The kneading will take care of that.
- Knead the dough for 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface. You're trying to get it to feel like a baby's bottom and all that. Shape it into a ball.
- Grease a large bowl (or a stockpot works well, too) with butter paper**, roll the dough around to cover all surfaces with butter grease, cover the dough with a clean (obviously) kitchen towel. When the dough has doubled in size, the first rising is complete. This step will take anywhere from 1 1/2 hours (warm room, or the front porch in my case) to 8 hours or more (refrigerator).
- After the dough has doubled in size, punch it down and knead for another minute on a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough into a rough loaf and place it, seam side down, into a greased 8 1/2" x 4 1/2" x 2 1/2" loaf pan. Cover with the kitchen towel you used before and let rise in a warm place until nearly doubled (anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour).
- After this second rising, preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Make a vertical slash down the center of the bread with a razor blade (or very sharp knife). Dust the top of the loaf with flour and let it sit 10-15 minutes.
- Bake the loaf in the center of the oven at 450 degrees for 15 minutes and then turn the temperature down to 400 and keep baking for another 20 to 25 minutes or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
- Be sure to cool the loaf completely on a wire rack.
Not only is it easy, it makes a really satisfying bread. It tastes just like white bread ought to taste, plus it has a moist, dense crumb and a chewy crust. I took the bread out of the oven last night around 7:20, Paul and I went to the 7:50 showing of Star Trek (which was so much fun, definitely recommended, worth the $9 to see it in the theatre, child Spock so cute wanted to take him home), then came home and nibbled on some homemade bread. Oh, and we also turned in our keys to the apartment and said good-bye for good. It was a great evening.
*When I use the bread machine, I weigh out 1 pound of all-purpose flour instead of bread flour, because it bakes more evenly for some reason.
**Save all of your butter wrappers. They're perfect for greasing. Plus, you get more use out of them before you throw them away.
P.S. This made me laugh.
Plus, the original series episodes are available online here.