Saturday, May 8, 2010

"How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?" Julia Child

Maybe that's where we went wrong. But, this blog isn't about the state of our country's agriculture and eating culture. It's about food, and more specifically, Matt's and my food. And today, it's about bread. And why you should make your own.

You always have the ingredients on hand (at least once you buy the yeast).

It's a great outlet for stress and anger.

It makes your house smell incredible.

It really, truly does taste better than what you're buying in the store (unless your store is a boulangerie or proper bakery).

It is just so damn satisfying. No, really; there is nothing that compares to the satisfaction of making your own bread.

Honey Whole Wheat Pan Bread
by Nick Malgieri, from How to Bake

2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups warm tap water (about 110 degrees)
3 to 3 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour (though I have used bread flour in the past)
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 Tablespoon salt
2 Tablespoons honey
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Whisk the yeast into the warm water and let it stand while preparing the other ingredients. (After about five minutes, you should notice a mushroom cloud go off right under the surface of the water. In my head, and I don't know where I got this idea from, this means that the yeast is good and everything is going to turn out ok--so keep an eye out for that mushroom cloud! Even if for no other reason than it's cool to see)

Whisk the honey into the butter.

Place 5 cups of the flour and salt into a mixing bowl. Stir in the yeast mixture, honey and butter. Continue stirring until you have a rough ball, then turn the dough out onto a clean counter and knead for about five minutes. If the dough is really soft and sticky, add a tablespoon of the remaining flour.

Place the dough into an oiled bowl, turn to oil all surfaces, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for an hour, until doubled. (A warm place, by the way, means somewhere in the 80s. If your apartment is cooler than that, like mine, you could either a) cover it with an additional tea towel and then stick it in the warmest spot in your house, or b) stick it in the oven--the oven is off, by the way--with a pan of boiling water on the rack below)

Turn out the dough, deflate and separate into two equal pieces. Stretch each piece out to a rectangle, fold in the short sides to the middle so that the length is approximately that of your pan, then fold over the long edge to the middle. Fold over the other long side and compress to form a tight cylinder. Place in the oiled loaf pans (2 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 x 2 3/4-inch pans) seam side down and let rise for another hour. In case that didn't make sense:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Bake the loaves for about 30 minutes on a middle rack. They should be golden brown, firm and 210 degrees on the inside. Unmold and cool on a rack on their sides.

Now, since this isn't store-bought, and is missing all those preservatives (hooray), it can't sit out on your countertop for days on end. I keep mine in a zip-loc in the fridge. I wrap the other loaf (cause this recipe makes two!), first, in plastic wrap, then foil, and throw it in the freezer.