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Samantha's Favorite Home-Baked Bread

I bake bread a lot. This isn't a cooking blog, so you won't see many posts about baking. However, a friend asked for my recipe for a buttermilk white bread and it seemed like a good idea to just put it up here so she can see the pictures and not have to write down the recipe elsewhere.

So for Claire and for everyone who is interested, this is the recipe I'll be tweaking and tweaking until it's time to have my entry ready for the Olmsted County Fair. I'm not sure if it's our humidity, elevation, temperature, or the calibration of my oven, but this bread will come out different for everyone. Just adjust the flour amount and ratios, and total bake time, until you get a result you love.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons of yeast (not the bread machine kind of yeast. I prefer buying a jar of yeast that I keep in the fridge, but you can just use three packets if you don't bake often.
  • 1/2 cup warm water - temp it to be between 87-108 degrees if you can. Do this enough and you'll just know it's right by feeling it with your hand.
  • 1-1/2 cups buttermilk (or make some with regular milk and lemon juice)
  • 1 cup whole or 2% milk
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 tablespoon salt

You CAN use 8 cups all-purpose instead of choice to use three flours. This is just what has worked best in my kitchen. Cake flour is lighter and more delicate (lower in gluten) and bread flour is going to be more chewy because of the higher protein level. The mixture I use has given me just the right amount of rise, texture, and chew. Strong enough for a sandwich, but tender for a light snack.

The Process
1. Pour the water into your mixer bowl and put the yeast in. Lightly stir for just a moment and let it sit for 3-5 minutes.

2. Add all remaining ingredients with the flour and salt last.

3. Put on your dough hook and run on lowest setting for a minute to help it mix up. You can use the beater hook for this step, but I prefer to clean just one hook after baking.

4. Step up the speed a notch and let the dough mix and knead for 10-15 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure the pin in your mixer doesn't pop out and to be sure your mixer can handle this much heavy dough. A KitchenAid mixer can handle at least this and probably more, but other models may not have the motor strength.



5. Spray cooking spray in a big plastic or ceramic bowl (I sometimes use a paper towel and wipe olive oil around the bowl). Make a ball from the dough and put it in the bowl. Either roll the ball around the oil to coat, or brush oil lightly on the ball itself. Cover lightly and let sit in a warm place for an hour.

6. Punch down the dough (really work out all the gasses) and make two balls. Cover and let rest for 10-20 minutes.


7. Take one ball and roll it into a nice long log. I don't spend a lot of effort here. Just roll as best you can with your hands and stretch it out. If you've ever made bagels, you can use a similar technique of thwaping the dough log around your hand to lengthen it.

8. Make a pan loaf. I make a signature swirl by curling each end of the log around itself like a very tight curly "s" shape. You can also do a stacked loaf with 3/4 of the ball shaped into a traditional pan loaf. Slice down the middle, brush with water and then add the remaining 1/4 of the dough either braided or rolled. This dough is easy to work with, so have fun. Just be sure to tuck loose ends and seal your seams.

I don't usually grease my pans, but you can if you want. I use heavier metal pans. Loaves tend to stick to glass more, but if you like a lighter crust, glass is a good choice.



9. Poke holes or make a small slice, brush with water, lightly cover and let rise again for 30-60 minutes.

10. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Put a roasting pan on the bottom shelf and the other shelf stays in the middle of the oven. Set aside 10-14 ice cubes when it's time to bake.

11. Put your loaves in the oven on a baking sheet. Dump the ice in the roasting pan below them and close the oven door.

12. Bake. I bake for 40 minutes and check color. If needed, go another 10-15 minutes. More time means a thicker crust. Too little time means a doughy bread. Err on the side of overbaked.

13. Wait. Just really really wait. Put your finished loaves on a cooling rack (out of the pans) and wait at least an hour before slicing. Trust me.

That's it!



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