reply to post by nixie_nox
Basic Bread Recipe
4 Cups white flour.
1 tsp salt.
1 package activated yeast.
1 1/3 cups lukewarm water.
Blooming the Yeast
This is pretty important and it serves a couple purposes. First, it proves that the yeast is good, and second, it gets the yeast 'going.'
Take a small bowl or coffee cup and put in a pinch of white sugar. Then add about a 1/4 cup of lukewarm water, no warmer than 110 degs F. Then add the
contents of one pack of activated dried yeast. Stir it all up well, then set aside.
In 15-minutes the yeast should have 'bloomed.' It will look 'foamy' and will have multiplied the original amount. This will be a good thing to
make sure your bread will rise ok.
Making the Dough
Get a large bowl, earthenware is my preference, and add the flour. Just scoop out a cup at a time, level it off ( more or less ) and pass each cup
through a wire-mesh strainer into the bowl to get all the hard lumps out. Throw away what remains in the strainer after each cup.
Add the salt.
Add the water and the bloomed yeast.
Use a flexible rubber spatula to mix it all together in the bowl until it begins to 'come together.' Then use the 'heel' of one hand to knead it
all into a ball inside the bowl. You may need to use the spatula to 'scrape' the sides of the bowl to get everything into the ball.
Sprinkle out some flower on a counter top, remove the ball from the bowl, and just let it sit there for five minutes. In the meantime wash and dry the
bowl. When the bowl is clean and dry, set it aside.
Now 'knead' the dough. When you start, the 'ball' will be kind of 'lumpy.' Just use the heel of one hand to get the dough all smooth in texture.
Keep your other hand 'clean.' You may need to sprinkle a little flower on the ball if it is too 'sticky.' When you've got it right it wont stick
to your hand at all.
After about 5-minutes of kneading, the dough should be pretty smooth. Then use both hands to form it into a ball, place it in the bowl and cover the
bowl with a couple clean, damp dishtowels.
I like to warm the oven up to 90 or 100 degs F and set the bowl in there. In this case the dough is ready to 'punch down' in 90-minutes.
If it's warm enough in the room you won't need to use the oven. Depending on the room temperature it may take 2 or 3 hours for the dough to
'double' in size. When it has 'doubled,' it's ready to punch down.
Baking the Loaf
Lightly 'oil' the inside of a bread-pan. Butter or olive-oil is my preference.
Form the 'deflated' dough into a 'loaf', put it in the pan and cover again with some moistened dish-towels.
When the loaf has doubled in size in the bread pan it's ready to bake.
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven, pre-heat the oven to 425 degs F and put the bread pan in there.
After about 30-minutes the loaf should look golden brown. This means it's done, so take out the pan, let it cool for a few minutes, then 'turn out'
the loaf onto a rack to let it cool.
Baking 'purists' insist that the dough must
rise twice before being formed into a 'loaf' for the third and final rise before baking. I
admit this does result in the best tasting 'yeasty' bread. But the 'downside' is that these 'three rises' may take as long as 6 or 7 hours
before the loaf is ready to bake, depending on temperature, of course ...
Me, personally, I usually just let it rise once, punch it down, form it into a loaf, place it in the bread pan, cover with the towels and let it rise
a second time before baking ...
Baking bread is not an 'exact science.' It's an art - very 'touchy-feely.'
As far as how long to bake the loaf, you will 'get the feel' for it after a couple times. Play with the oven temperature if you want. It's all up
to you, the 'baker.'
What I've described is what I have found works best for me.
Finally, after the fresh-baked loaf has been 'resting' for 10-minutes or so, if you're anything like me, you may not be able to 'resist' any
longer and simply 'must' have a slice. In this case it is best to use a long, thin, serrated bread-knife to cut the still warm loaf, as it will
still be very soft and plastic inside.
Make sure you've got some fresh, salted butter handy, and make no mistake - you will be very satisfied with the results when you take your first bite