I have been pursuing the perfect loaf of homemade bread for months now. Usually, if there is something that I cannot make better than store-bought, I concede gracefully. However, since I began baking bread to share for Communion at church, I feel the need to create beautiful golden loaves with the perfect crunchy-chewy crust on top. So far, I’ve managed passable loaves (once you cut off the too-dense or too-dry crusts).
This recipe, however, may just be the Holy Grail of breads.
4 1/2 tsp Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 hot water (not boiling, from the tap is fine)
1 tbs kosher salt
3 tbs unsalted butter, cut into pieces
2 2/3 cups of hot water (not boiling, from from the tap is fine)
7-8 cups of flour
2 tbs olive oil
How I Made It:
In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, sugar and hot water. Mix with a spoon or spatula and let sit for 10 minutes or until foamy. Add the salt, butter, and remaining hot water and turn the mixer on low speed. Add half the flour one cup at a time, letting the wet and dry ingredients come together slowly. Add the remaining flour in small batches until you have a smooth, slightly sticky dough. (This attempt used a little more than 7 cups of flour.)
Let the mixer knead the dough for 10 minutes, adding a little flour if it starts to get too sticky. Prepare a big bowl with 2 tbs of olive oil, swirled around the sides. When the dough is done, gather it into a ball and transfer it to the oiled bowl. Turn the dough a couple of times so that all the sides are coated with the olive oil. Cover and let rise someplace warm for one hour.
♦ The “let dough rise” step has been giving me trouble. Since I live in a rainforest, and I keep my house very cool, I don’t really have a “warm place” that encourages the dough to rise. Previously, I’ve placed the bowl on the counter over the dishwasher while I ran a load of dishes. That helped but it wasn’t quite enough. This time I set the oven to warm just as I started to make the bread. I turned it off after 2 minutes, so it was warm but not hot by the time I was ready for the bread to rise. I think this is the answer — but you have to watch to be sure your bread dough doesn’t escape the bowl!
Once the bread dough has risen to at least twice the original size, punch it down and knead it just a bit before turning it out on a floured surface. Divide the dough into three portions. Fold and pat each portion into a loaf. Spray the loaf pans with baking spray and then transfer the loaves to the pans. Cover the pans and let them rise for another hour.
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees (remove the loaf pans if you were letting them rise in there). Put the loaf pans on a cookie sheet before putting them in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown on top. Cover the loaves with non-stick aluminum foil (to prevent burning the top) and bake for another 15 minutes.
Let the loaves cool before slicing.
How It Turned Out:
Three absolutely beautiful loaves of homemade bread to share!
This is definitely the recipe I’ll use from now on.