I know I'm not alone when I say yeast intimidates me. After all my years of cooking and baking, making bread -- good bread, the kind that makes my husband swoon and say, "Honey, if only you could make bread like this!" -- still scares me. As careful as I am to measure, to test, to watch and wait, I still hold my breath when I open the oven door and wonder, "Is it going to be okay? Is it going to be another doorstop?"
I'm envious of all those who tell me it's so easy. (I suspect they're the same ones who say the same thing about pie dough. Call me suspicious.) And I've had a good share of encouragement. After I donated my bread machine to Goodwill in despair, Mr. Rosemary bought me a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with a dough hook. My neighbor took me into her kitchen and performed breadmaking alchemy in front of my very eyes.
Even my brother can whip up a mean loaf of challah. Spurred by that sibling rivalry, I decided I'd make it myself. I did. It was lovely. But I rested on my laurels too long, and didn't repeat the feat.
I've other other confrontations with yeast and fared pretty well. I can make pizza dough, and I've made focaccia with modest success, but I still lack a good track record. Hit and miss successes are all I can rack up.
I've decided to accept the gauntlet again -- this time, it's because of my 9 year-old cooking student. He wants to make bread badly. I've tried to reason with the boy. I tell him we really don't have time for that rising, and shaping and re-rising during our after school sessions. So we've made some quick breads and had a ball making soft pretzels.
Still . . . . it's BREAD he wants to make. So the teacher has to learn before she can teach. And what better source than King Arthur Flour?
I read and watched and listened and I did it. And even though I held my breath when I opened the oven, it was with a smile this time.
An old dog can learn new tricks. Thanks for the hand-holding, KAF.
The bread baking saga will continue . . .
King Arthur’s Classic White Sandwich Bread
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1 heaping tablespoon honey
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons soft butter
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup nonfat dry milk granules
Mix all of the ingredients in the order listed, and mix and knead — by hand, or using a stand mixer — to make a smooth dough. It won't be particularly soft nor stiff; it should be smooth and feel bouncy and elastic under your hands.
Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl or other container. Cover it, and let it rise at room temperature until it's very puffy, 1 to 2 hours.
Gently deflate the dough, and shape it into a fat 9" log. Place it in a lightly greased 9" x 5" loaf pan.
Cover the pan, and let the dough rise for 60 to 90 minutes, till it's crowned 1" to 1 1/2" over the rim of the pan. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bake the bread for 20 minutes. Tent it lightly with aluminum foil, and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes, till it's golden brown. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center will read 195°F to 200°F.
Remove the bread from the oven, and turn it out onto a rack to cool. When completely cool, wrap in plastic, and store at room temperature.
Yield: 1 large loaf, about 18 servings.