Tuesday, June 21, 2011

My Best Breads: Everyday Bread

If you've known me for a long time you'll recall a past baking incident that involved a large portion of onion powder that was accidently substituted for flour while baking peanut butter cookies. {Yeah, I know... it was pretty bad really bad.} I'll never be a master pastry chef, but, thankfully, the onion powder disaster was my low-point; these days I choose to believe that my baking prowess has been slowly improving ever since.

Onion powder cookies withstanding, in more recent years I have managed to find and tweak a handful of delicious bread recipes that I make often with a nice measure of success. Over the next few weeks I'll share our family's favorites with you... just don't expect a recipe for peanut butter cookies!

We'll start with my trusty, tried and true recipe for basic, everyday bread. I bake this weekly for our family, and have also found that a loaf of this bread, along with some jam or flavored butter, makes a great gift for nearly any occasion.

Everyday Bread

1 t. salt
2 T. honey
2 T. soft butter
1 T. milk
1 cup warm water
3 cups bread flour*
2.25 t. (or one packet) yeast

*Regarding the flour... For best results use 3 cups of bread flour, or 1.5 cups of bread flour and 1.5 cups of wheat flour. You can substitute a small portion of the flour for flax seed meal if desired.

If you're a lazy baker like I am place the ingredients in the order listed above into your bread machine and use the "dough" cycle to mix, knead, and rise the dough.

If you're mixing by hand place all of the ingredients except the flour into a large bowl and stir to combine. Stir in the flour and turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until the dough becomes smooth and elastic, about 10-12 minutes. Place dough in a greased bowl and cover lightly. Let it rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

When your "dough" cycle is complete or your hand-mixed dough has doubled in size, punch down and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Gently knead until smooth, about 2-3 minutes. Shape into a loaf and place in a greased loaf pan. Let it rise for 30 minutes in a warm place. Bake for 25-30 minutes at 350. Remove from the baking pan and allow it to cool on a wire rack, or enjoy it warm with butter and honey.