Saturday, February 6, 2010

Amish White Bread

Well, the weather-people actually got it right. We were completely and totally snowed in today. Not sure what the official measurement was, but we had about two feet, give or take a couple of inches. There was so much snow that we didn't even know where to put it as we shoveled ourselves out.

Seeing as I'd finished off our bread yesterday making the bread pudding muffins, I decided that a snow day is as good a day as any to make a new batch of bread.

I actually only started making bread this past year. So every time I make it, I still marvel at the process - at how simple it really is, and how much better homemade bread tastes than its mass-produced, store-bought counterpart.

Making bread is always a multi-step process, with many periods of waiting. The first step involves allowing the yeast to activate and bloom. Both little miss and I are always disproportionately excited to see the yeast get all foamy. For me, it means that it's working, and that the bread should rise nicely. For her, it just looks pretty cool. And, seriously, she's right.

Once the other ingredients are added, that is when I become increasingly grateful for my Kitchenaid mixer. Like most breads (though certainly not all), this one involves quite a bit of kneading. The stand mixer makes that much easier. Because trust me - that is a lot of flour. And that takes a lot of muscle to knead. I have much respect for people who do this by hand.

After the dough is nice and smooth, it has to rest. This is usually the time for, well, doing the dishes, But other than that, this is when we play games and do crafts and otherwise make an hour go by as quickly as we can. Today our hour was passed playing board games. Little miss is amazingly good at Memory. Like, when we first started playing, I tried to throw the game a little in her favor... not cheating (though, when it is so that your opponent can succeed, is it still called cheating?), but trying to make sure that the games were close. Not anymore. This kid doesn't need my help to win. Quite impressive.

Anyway, an hour later is when little miss's favorite part comes. You got it - the dough needs to be deflated. Or, in three year old speak, it is the punching-down-the-dough part. This is the part that makes the waiting worthwhile for her. And I just like to see how big it rose during its rest.

The dough is then lightly kneaded, divided in two, and shaped into two loaves, which are set to rest once again, though for a shorter amount of time this time. One more rest, half an hour in the oven, and, magically, you go from this:

to this:

And it makes the house smell SO good.

This bread is so good for, well, everything. For sandwiches, for toast, for french toast, even just for snacking on.

Do yourself a favor - try it.

Amish White Bread

2 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2/3 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
6 cups bread flour (give or take, so add carefully after the first 4 cups)

In a large bowl, dissolve the sugar in warm water, and then stir in yeast.
Allow to proof until yeast resembles a creamy foam (about 10 minutes).
Mix salt and oil into the yeast. Mix in flour one cup at a time. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface until smooth.
Place in a well oiled bowl, and turn dough to coat. Cover with a damp cloth (I cover it with plastic wrap). Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch dough down. Knead for a few minutes, and divide in half.
Shape into loaves, and place into two well oiled 9x5 inch loaf pans.
Allow to rise for 30 minutes, or until dough has risen 1 inch above pans.

Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes.


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