I'll get around to making the no-knead bread featured in the NY Times back on November 8, 2006, but I figured I'd return to bread baking with a traditional white bread. The recipe is taken from an old Betty Crocker cookbook.
Traditional White Bread
Prep: 35 minutes; Proof: 1 hr 50 minutes; Bake: 30 minutes
Makes 2 loaves, 16 slices each
Bread baking is a relatively simple matter: mix ingredients & knead, let sit, let sit longer, bake, eat.
In order to make that first step easier it's best to gather all the ingredient and tools in one location. Not shown are the bread-hook attachments for my mixer (pretend they are off-camera).
No mixer? No problem. A sturdy spoon will do. Good exercise for the forearms, too.
The text at the bottom of the yeast packet continues “... and traditional baking.” Bread machines have so taken over that a great many of the bread recipes one finds online are for them, not for those looking to do things by hand. I'm not anti-bread-machine, to be honest, and I've had some really tasty breads from them (by both my step-mother and by the departmental secretary, who provided a delicious beer-bread at the holiday party), but 1) I don't have such a machine and 2) I'm currently interested in doing things mostly by hand.
In any case–in short–put in the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast as directed along with the shortening. Mix. Pour in water and watch it get sticky. With the wrong attachments the dough will crawl up the mixer.
Truly the most enjoyable part of the project is the kneading. This time around I couldn't get the dough to take in much of the remaining 2.5–3.5 cups of flour, and much of it was only added through the process of kneading. At no point did the dough stick to my hands; it was a joy to work with.
Do not cut the kneading stage short. Give it the full ten minutes, and keep a timer or watch nearby. You develop a rhythm. A push, a pull, a rotate and roll. Push, pull ...
After an hour of rising in a covered bowl in a warm spot the dough does truly double (compare images 4 and 5).
Punch it down. Hear the whoosh!, haul it out, tear it in half, and roll it out.
I couldn't be bothered to make a perfect rectangle, but I did keep it a mostly constant width except at the ends. Roll it into a loaf from the back to the front, pinching the seam closed after each new layer.
After finishing the rolling, seal the final seam and tuck the ends under, place the loaves in the greased (butter or shortening) pans, cover, set aside in a warm place, and let them rise another 35–50 minutes. I tend to let it go the full 50, and one notices that after the second rising the loaves now fill the pans.
I didn't bother with making pretty or perfectly shaped loaves. Just stick them in the oven at 425F (about 220C) for about 25 minutes (or until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped). The loaves will roll or lift right out of the pans. I add a little butter to the tops of the hot loaves.
The freshly made bread inspired me to fix a peanut butter and honey sandwich or two. At Woodman's Shurfine “natural” peanut butter (peanuts and salt) is rather inexpensive and a good alternative to the heavily sugared brands.
—January 15 2007