I'm not sure when my love affair with bread-baking began, exactly, but I think it was around the beginning of middle school. Weird hobby for a kid, right? I remember one Summer when I literally baked bread almost every day, just because. When my grandmother spent a week in the hospital before passing away, for some reason I decided to send loaves of sweet, yeasty bread with my family each day as they sat at her bedside.
Baking bread is cathartic for me, I think.
|Click on the picture for this fabulous recipe!|
There's something magical about the transformation of it all. Such plain ingredients turn into carb-laden goodness that makes the house smell amazing and induces happy smiles from those who taste it.
The yeasty goodness of it all :-)
Occasionally I get lazy...sometimes for long stretches...and grab bread at the store because I feel like I don't have enough time to bake. Nonsense, really- most of the time it takes to make bread is in the rising and the baking and requires zero effort. Every time I get into a store-bought rut my daughter eventually complains about the lack of my homemade bread in the house and it strokes my ego enough to get back to baking :-)
I've tried LOTS of recipes in the past 20 or so years, and I love to try new recipes. There are two that I ALWAYS come back to for the basics, though...
I've mentioned Sabrina's Sandwich Bread before, and for good reason- it's the perfect sandwich bread. Many homemade breads don't have quite the right consistency for a sandwich bread, or they dry out very quickly. Not this one!! It's perfect for cutting to the right thickness, takes forever to dry out, and doesn't like to mold either. I love it! I follow the recipe with a couple of exceptions- I've found that we prefer only half of the salt called for and that the consistency is even MORE perfect if you use 2/3 to 3/4 whole wheat flour and use bread flour for the rest. Of every sandwich bread recipe I've tried (and I've tried a ton), this is hands down the best.
The other recipe that's really a must for your bread recipe repertoire is for 40-Minute Hamburger Buns. This one makes nice, soft buns or dinner rolls that taste great and literally take no more than 40 minutes, start to finish. I forgot to buy hamburger buns one day and went looking for a recipe that wouldn't take long, as dinner was coming quickly. This one is great! Everyone kept complimenting me on them, and they take no time at all. Which is awesome! The only caution with this one is that I would recommend making only 8 buns if you want them to be perfectly-sized for a normal burger.
I bake lots of different breads for lots of different occasions, but these are my go-to recipes for the ones we use pretty much daily around here- try them out and see what you think!
2 envelopes active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (about 105°)
1/4 cup honey or 1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter, plus
1 teaspoon melted unsalted butter, for bowl
2 tablespoons coarse salt (I use 1 Tbsp table salt)
6 -7 cups all-purpose flour, plus (I sub whole wheat flour for half)
more flour, for dusting
1. Sprinkle yeast over warm water in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add honey, butter and salt; whisk until yeast is dissolved. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
3. On a lightly floured surface, knead dough, adding up to 1 cup more flour as needed; knead until smooth, elastic, and slightly sticky, about 5 minutes (I do this with my dough hook in the mixer).
4. Let rise in a large buttered bowl, covered with plastic wrap in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in bulk, about 45 minutes.
5. Preheat oven to 400. Butter two 4 ½ by 8 ½ inch loaf pans. Punch down the dough; transfer to a lightly floured surface. Divide dough in half. Gently knead each piece until smooth. Shape each piece into a loaf, tucking sides underneath to form a seam down the middle. Place loaves, seam side down, in buttered pans. Let rise until dough reaches top of pans, 15 to 20 minutes. Bake until golden brown and hollow-sounding when tapped on bottom (briefly turn out loaf to test), 35 to 45 minutes.
6. Coat top of loaves with butter. Let cool slightly in pans on wire racks; unmold. Let cool until just warm before slicing.