Just like Oprah, I LOVE BREAD! “Bread for breakfast, bread for lunch, and bread for dinner,” is what I would say if my adult body wasn’t adding a fat cell with the mere mention of a slice of bread. Oh, the trials and tribulations of an aging human being together with the taste of a fresh baked, crusty bread. It’s just wrong.
The following bread recipe was the first one I ever attempted. If you remember in the post, “Puff Puff Pastry My Friend,” I mentioned my search for a good loaf of bread and my budding love affair with Flour by Joanne Chang. This is her recipe but I tweaked a few things based on my new found “breaducation.”
This recipe was used to make the hot pimento cheese bacon bites you see in the photo above and you can find the recipe in my post, “Football Sunday, Its Game Time.”
In my continuing “breaducation” courses, I have learned different bread making techniques and dabbled in different flavors. I am still learning and want to tackle more such as rye bread or pumpernickel.
Oh man, a classic rueben dripping with sauerkraut, thousand island dressing, melty Swiss and copious amounts of corned beef on home made thick sliced rye bread. YES, Please!
Now that I have wiped the drool from my chin, let me tell you about this particular bread. This is a white bread I shape into long loaves. This recipe yields 2 large loaves. You can easily freeze this bread for up to a month and never know it wasn’t baked that day.
First things first, you have to make the bread sponge.
PLANNING AHEAD: Flour naturally has leavening agents and will make a sponge or starter for bread when just mixed with water. However, that process is a bit lengthy. For the purposes of this recipe, we will make a sponge or starter that can be made overnight. This note will be helpful when adding bread baking to your schedule.
Active Time: 3-5 minutes
Inactive Time: 4-8 hours
3/4 cup (180 grams) of water at 90-95 degrees in temperature*
*Let’s say you don’t have a thermometer, don’t fret. Just make sure the water is neither too cold nor too hot to the touch. Go ahead, stick you finger in it!
1 cup (140 grams) of unbleached all purpose flour, plus a 1/4 cup (35 grams) of unbleached all purpose flour (Yes, you are reading this correctly. Keep reading.)
1/4 tsp active dry yeast. (I use Fleischmann’s)
Let’s say its 5 pm on Friday and it’s on your schedule to make bread for Saturday. In a small bowl, mix together the water, 1 cup of flour and the yeast. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit on the counter for about 4 hours.
Don’t forget, before you go to bed, add the remaining 1/4 cup of flour to the bowl. Mix well and recover. The sponge should go into the refrigerator over night.
PLANNING AHEAD: Wait, 5 o’clock on a Friday? Girl, I’m at happy hour! Guess I’m not baking bread tomorrow.
STOP RIGHT THERE! The first step of this sponge can be made up to 8 hours before you have to feed the yeast with more flour. Yes, feed it.
Now, go have your self a good time but don’t forget to feed the yeast when you get home!
BREAD BAKING DAY HAS ARRIVED!
Active Time: 25 Minutes
Inactive Time: 5 Hours
1 1/2 cup (360 grams) of room temperature water (Stick your finger in it!)
2 cups (280 grams) of unbleached all purpose flour plus more for dusting
2 cups (300 grams) bread flour
12 ounces of bread sponge (The one you made last night.)
2 teaspoons of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of yeast
Cornmeal for dusting the pans
In a stand mixer attached with a dough hook, mix together the water and all the flour. On low speed, start the mixer for about 1 minute or until the combination looks like a shaggy mess. If you do not have a stand mixer, you can mix by hand until it looks like the photo.
Lift the dough hook out of the bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the shaggy dough rest for 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, pull the sponge from the refrigerator. It’s almost time for those little yeasts to perform in the main event. Measure the salt, sugar and pinch of yeast in a small bowl and set aside. Also, prepare the bowl for the breads 1st rise. Grab a large bowl and spray the inside with a non stick cooking spray.
After 10-15 minutes, uncover the bowl and add the salt, sugar, yeast and bread sponge. On low speed, knead the dough for 3-4 minutes or until smooth. Occasionally, stop the mixer and move the dough around a bit to give everyone a chance to dance on the hook.
You can also mix by hand and knead the dough by on a floured surface for 10 minutes.
The dough will be somewhat sticky and just like Joanne Chang says, “It should feel like an earlobe when you grasp a bit between your fingers.” If it is too sticky, add a tablespoon of flour and knead until incorporated. If the dough is a little dry, add a tablespoon of water.
You now have bread dough, let the promotion ceremony begin. Transfer the dough to the prepared bowl. The dough needs to rest so it can rise up to the occasion. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lint free cloth.
Let the dough proof for 2-3 hours.
PLANNING AHEAD: I’m super lucky to have a proofing setting on my range. The setting turns the oven lights on and off. This process helps maintain a temperature that is perfect for those little organisms to release gases that make the dough rise. It is not safe to cook food, to keep food warm or keep food free from the bacteria danger zone.
If your range doesn’t have this setting, you’ve still got options.
1. Turn on the oven light and leave the dough in the closed oven.
2. Find a draft free, warm area for your covered dough ball.
3. Before I had my super fabulous range, I bought a large plastic bin with a lid. I would fill two gallon size jugs with very hot water and set the dough between the two jugs inside the bin. I monitored the interior temperature with a thermometer. Don’t wanna over heat and kill off any precious yeast. This became my proofing box. I used this for years. My house is very cold and drafty in the winter time. This was a $10 fix. Now, its a storage bin.
After two hours have passed, prepare one large or two small baking sheets with a handful of cornmeal. The cornmeal is going to prevent the bread from sticking.
Preheat your oven to 475 degrees.
PLANNING AHEAD: You may want get yourself an oven thermometer. This is good to have on hand to ensure your oven is heating to the proper temperatures. You can adjust your temperature settings based on the reading of your thermometer. If your thermometer reads 465 degrees, increase the temperature to 485 degrees to offset the difference.
On the bottom rack, leave a large cast iron pan. You will see why in a moment. Your other rack should be in the center of your oven.
Let’s play with our dough a little. Dump the dough on to a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough in half. Pat the dough (Good Dough!) into a square. Start with the side closest to you and roll the dough upward until you have a loaf shape. Carefully, lift your loaf onto the cornmeal prepared pan.
Repeat for dough number two. Cover the dough with a greased plastic wrap and let it rest for another hour in a warm, draft free place.
Go ahead, do something fun while you wait. You have an hour.
Uncover your dough and dust the loaves of dough with flour. Use a sharp knife to score the bread in any fashion that makes your heart happy.
Your oven is fully heated and your bread is almost ready to bake. Have four cups of water ready to pour into that cast iron pan I asked you to keep on the bottom rack of the oven. This will provide the dough with much needed steam to build a deliciously crusty exterior.
Now, open that blazing hot oven, stick your tray(s) on the center rack and CAREFULLY pour four cups of water into the cast iron pan and shut the oven door for about 25-35 minutes.
PLANNING AHEAD: If you can only fit one tray at a time, stick the second tray in the refrigerator until your first loaf is done baking. Then repeat the baking steps for the second loaf. This will slow down the yeast and prevent over proofing your loaf.
To check if your bread is done, lift the bread off the pan and flick the underside of the loaf. Flick up and down and all around, you won’t hurt it. You are looking for a hallow sound. If you get that sound, your bread is done. Transfer the loaves to a wire rack and let cool for at least 1 hour before you cut into those bad boys.
Any left over bread can be stored in a plastic bag. However, the bread will loose its crusty nature. The day old bread makes great toast, croutons, french toast, or anything else you can think of.
PREPARATION AND PLANNING TIP: Maybe you have just a couple people living in your house and you don’t need two loaves of bread for dinner. When the loaves are completely cooled, wrap in plastic wrap and foil, label with the date and stick in the freezer for up to a month.
When you are ready to eat your frozen bread, unwrap, place under a lint free towel until thawed, about an hour or two. Turn the oven on to 325 degrees and bake that bread for about 5 minutes. This is called “refresh.”
BLTOAFE BREAKFAST SAMMY ON COUNTRY WHITE BREAD
2 Slices of the day old white bread, toasted
1 ounce of cream cheese, softened
2 strips of bacon
Leaf of lettuce
Slice of tomato
Slice or two of red onion
Two slices of avocado
Toast two slices of your day old country white bread. Spread the cream cheese on a slice of the toast, layer with the lettuce, tomato, onion and avocado. Top with a fried egg* and bacon slices. Close the sandwich with the second slice of toast. Devour!
This sandwich is just as amazing when you replace the cream cheese with the chipotle lime creme from the “Football Sunday, Time For The Big Game” post. TRUST!
*Michael, my better half, does NOT like runny eggs. So scrambled eggs he gets. Cook your eggs how you like them!
Look for future recipes using this country white bread.
Share some sugar and leave a comment for how you used the country white bread recipe.