Thursday, March 22, 2012

Basic White Bread

Okay.  So you know I love freshly baked bread in basically any form.  Or maybe you don't.  In which case, I do.  I love it.  From dense, rustic loaves studded with grains, nuts, and seeds to sweet, gooey buns topped with icing to crusty, chewy artisan loaves to the simplest, most basic white bread.  I love 'em all.

But for a couple of years now I've been baking up many, many variations on a basic loaf of white bread.  The whole family's in on the quest.  We want a loaf that's soft...but not too soft.  Sliceable...but not too dense. It should hold up to sandwiches both cold and hot.  I should be able to toast it.   While I've found some loaves that come close to what we're looking for.  THIS particular recipe is the closest.

It's soft, yet sliceable.  It holds up to toasting...and sandwich fillings.  And it doesn't taste like airy cardboard.  Always a bonus.  It's the perfect vehicle.
Basic White Bread

by Heather Schmitt-González
Prep Time: 1½ hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Keywords: bake bread

Ingredients (2 loaves)
  • 5 c. (~680 g) all-purpose or bread flour
  • 3 Tbs. sugar
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 pkg (2¼ tsp.) instant dry yeast
  • ½ c. dry milk powder
  • 2 c. hot water (120°-130°F)
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable shortening, room temp
Instructions
Combine all ingredients in your stand mixer fitted with the dough hook and mix for ~3 minutes on low to combine. Turn it up to medium speed and knead for ~5 minutes. Adjust hydration (w/ more water or more flour), if needed.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and finishing kneading until you have a lovely soft dough. Form into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let rise for about an hour.

Punch down dough and divide into two equal pieces.

Shape each into a loaf by pushing into a flattish oval and folding it in half or rolling it. Tuck nicely into greased loaf pans, seam sides down, and cover. Let rise another 45 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400°F during last 15 minutes of rise time.

Bake for 10 minutes and then reduce temperature of oven to 350°F and bake for another 20 minutes or so, turning loaves halfway through to allow for even coloring. The internal temperature should register 200°F and you should get a hollow sound when you knock on the bottoms. Remove from pans and let cool on racks.

*adapted from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Bread via Living in the Kitchen with Puppies 
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