Monday, September 21, 2009

basic sandwich bread

Holy free time, batman! First the crackers, which only take a few minutes but seem like they are an afternoon project. Bread, though, is for the truly "carless in southern california". Instead of figuring out the bus system or exploring the joys of walking next to the freeway, I made some bread. And lo! It is cheaper (provided that you buy a bunch of yeast and flour, it comes out to like 1.50 a loaf) and better (but don't take my word for it!) than bread from the store.

I'll give bootleg instructions here... if you really want to become a weekend breadmaster, I suggest you find a copy of BEARD ON BREAD. This is the book that my friend who taught me to make bread used, and it really is great.

1 package active dry yeast
1 1/2 to 2 cups warm water
a spoonful of sugar or honey
3 3/4- 4 cups flour (baker's, all purpose, half whole wheat, some oats... you can go nuts)
1 t salt
some butter or oil

(for one loaf)

First, proof the yeast-- that is, rejuvenate the little guys by giving them a bath and a snack. Stir the yeast and sugar into 1/2 a cup of warm water. Too hot and they die, too cold and they can't relax. Let it sit around for a few minutes, should become kind of brown and frothy. Dr. Frankenstein, we have created life! Bwahaha. Making bread is great.

Add the salt to the 3 3/4 cup flour, then pour in 3/4 cup warm water. Stir it with a spoon. Now add the yeasties and stir until the dough comes together. If it is too stiff, you can add some more water, but try to knead it out first. Now knead! Punch and fold, turn and fold, turn and fold! The dough should become kind of elastic (hello, gluten!) and when you poke it, it should spring back.

Now rub the dough and your bowl with butter or oil and plop your ball of dough in there to rise. Cover it with a towel and keep it somewhere warmish-- an unheated oven is good for a drafty apartment.

2 hours or so later, it should have doubled in size and when you poke it it shouldn't spring back. Inexact science.

Now punch it down and knead it again for a few minutes. Prod it into a bread-like shape, then toss it in a greased loaf pan to rise again. Preheat the oven to 400.

When the bread has risen again (1 hr? do the poke thing) rub some cold water on top and cut some decorative slashes in the top. Bake for about 40 minutes. It should be brown and, when you take it out, sound hollow when you knock on it.

Let it cool before you slice it (I KNOW! but do it) then store it in the fridge.

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