be sensual, I think, is to respect and rejoice in the force of life, of
life itself, and to be present in all that one does, from the effort of
loving to the making of bread." ~James A. Baldwin, American Author
A few weeks back I posted a recipe from the New York Times for Artisan bread--a lovely round loaf with a crispy, crackling crust and chewy interior. This is the bread similar to three Cheese Bread, Asiago Bread and several other artisan loaves available at local stores and bakeries. It is my favorite bread. It is not a high riser as it has lower gluten structure and holes in the large crumb which give it the chewy texture I love--especially for toast, and crostini.
Les however prefers basic white bread as does our daughter Jesseca back in the U.S. It is the type of bread I used to make when she was a little girl--great for sandwiches, high rising with a thin crust and a very tender crumb. I call it old reliable and you will too if you try it.
One word of warning to Brits and others who live in a humid climate--reduce the liquid!! I made this bread the first two times, following the recipe exactly and it came out fine. Both days it happens, were hot, sunny days. When I made it again it was a misty, overcast and very humid day. My dough was noticeably more wet and the bread did not rise as it should; instead it slumped over the side of the bread pan, developing big side handles. It still tasted fine but it didn't have that typical bread shape.
Here's why: gluten strands make baked goods rise. Gluten doesn't form until flour becomes wet. Adding or withholding fluids from a bread recipe can encourage or deter gluten's development.
When you want to maximize gluten, a moderate amount of water is ideal. But if it's tenderness you are after, adding or withholding water will affect the outcome--depending on the bread you want to make.
Once the gluten in a dough is fully hydrated, adding yet more water weakens the gluten strands. In artisan breads, excess water weakens the gluten network, resulting in a crumb that has large appealing holes and chewy texture rather than a uniform, soft crumb.
I will be experimenting as well to develop a brown bread that is tender and rises high yet has that old time taste and the wholesome flavor of whole grains and molasses. Once I perfect it I will also post that recipe.
Easy White Bread
3 cups of strong unbleached white bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons of salt
1 Tablespoon of instant dry yeast
2 cups of very hot tap water (90-110F)
** Bakers in humid countries reduce water to 1 3/4 cup of hot water. You can always add in another 1/4 cup later if your dough seems too dry
2 Tablespoons of butter
6" x 9.5" loaf pan
|A real nice rise|
- Butter a large bowl. If it has a lid, butter it as well, or use a plastic shower cap to cover your bowl while your bread dough is rising.
- In a large bowl combine 1 1/2 cups of flour, sugar, salt and dry yeast. Whisk together to mix the dry ingredients.
- In a medium bowl or a large four cup measuring cup, pour in the hot water. Add 2 T. of butter. Stir gently until the butter melts completely. To this add the remaining 1 1/2 cup of flour. Mix it well. Once the flour is completely incorporated, pour the wet mix into the dry ingredients and stir well to thoroughly incorporate the dry mix with the liquid.
- On a floured counter or board tip your dough out and knead it for 10 minutes. I keep a cup of flour sitting nearby and dip into it as necessary to keep the counter and my hands lightly floured as I knead.
- After ten minutes, place your dough in the buttered bowl, cover and let rise someplace warm (mine sits on top of my refrigerator) for one hour.
- After one hour uncover your dough, punch down and tip it out on a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth, about 1 minute. Shape into a loaf, cover, and let rest 15 minutes.
- Shape into a loaf and place in a loaf pan. Cover and let rise 45 minutes.
- Pre-heat oven to 425 F (gas mark 6).
- Bake for 30-35 minutes, turning half way through if your oven does not brown evenly. Remove from the pan to a cooling rack. Butter the top of the bread for an easy to slice loaf. Allow the bread to cool to warm before slicing.
Les and I always eat a slice of fresh baked bread while warm with butter. This is a grandmother tradition in my family. My Welsh grandmother Lilly George, baked bread and gave me a slice still warm with butter and a cup of tea; my mother did the same.
I did it with my daughters when they were little and also with my American grandsons.
Recently I did this with our British grandkids Kiera and Kiernan. Judging by their response--wide eyes rolled upward with delight, yummy sounds coming from their lips--it was something they loved and will always remember.
It will be Teo, Batu, Lena-May, Nicole, Jack, and Jordan's turn soon! I think fresh baked warm bread with butter is a great tradition to pass on. As the Pillsbury Dough Boy says, "Nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven." I'm pretty sure he stole that line from his grandmother!