Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Bread: The final frontier


I’m a decent cook and baker, but there’s one food I’ve never been able to master, one food that’s always made me feel like a foodie imposter. That food is bread, with its wily alchemy and its temperamental yeast (an ingredient that you might KILL if you handle it incorrectly. That’s intense).
Bread takes time. And patience. And muscles. And then there are the imprecise instructions in most bread recipes, like kneading the dough for a long time…but not too long! Or the fact that your bread will misbehave like a spoiled, petulant diva if you don’t cover it with a towel and let it rest for a good long time. Is this a food or one of the real housewives?
But I am happy to report that my days of fighting with and being scared of bread are over because I have found a recipe that’s easy, no-fuss, and even tastes good as part of a sandwich. And if you happen to have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer, this recipe requires about five minutes of labor that's basically limited to measuring ingredients. I’m not kidding.
It’s a gluten miracle!
I should note that my husband, Brian, has replaced this bread with the whole wheat potato bread he usually makes his sandwiches on. He also revealed to me this morning that said potato bread actually tastes like “butt,” so my homemade bread must offer some modicum of relief.
Anyway, here it is! Happy baking!
Oatmeal Sandwich Bread
Recipe from the side of King Arthur Flour’s bag of unbleached bread flour
3 cups (12 ¾ ounces) of unbleached bread flour
1 cup (3 ounces) old-fashioned oats
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) butter, softened
1 ½ teaspoons of salt
3 tablespoons of honey
2 teaspoons of instant yeast or 1 packet of active dry yeast
1 ¼ cups (10 ounces) lukewarm milk
In a large mixing bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer, combine all of the ingredients, mixing to form a ragged-looking dough. (Don't worry if you still see chunks of butter. It will all melt when it's kneading).
Knead the dough, either by hand (10 minutes) or by machine (5 minutes using the bread hook on your Kitchen Aid mixer).
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover it with a towel, and allow it to rest for 1 hour; it'll become quite puffy, although it may not double in bulk.
Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into a log.

Place the dough in a lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan, cover the pan (with lightly greased plastic wrap or foil), and allow the dough to rise for 60-90 minutes, until it's crested 1 to 2 inches over the rim of the pan.

Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F. If the bread appears to be browning too quickly, tent it with aluminum foil for the final 10 minutes of baking.

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