Bread. Yeah, bread.

I just realized I have a pending post from at least a year or so ago (this is 1 SEP 2022), so I’ll post it and continue…

I have been doing a bit of baking during the pandemic, and I’ve been a little experimental while I tried to settle in on a “standard” recipe. I am very close.

Being an engineer warps me a little bit, and watching British baking shows hasn’t helped normalize me, so I tend to make my recipes in milliliters and grams, especially for bread recipes. Flour absorbs water, and that changes it’s weight-to-volume ratio, making it difficult to properly measure flour with a measuring cup. So I use a kitchen scale. I got it at Walmart for about $11. It weighs in grams and lbs:oz, so it’s quite handy.

The provided weights are approximate. If you end up with 53 grams of honey, nothing bad happens. 12 grams of yeast? OK. 510 g of flour? No problem.

The recipe is relatively straightforward, though I do use bread flour and honey, as well as canola oil. You can used all-purpose flour, sugar, and any other oil you have on hand. Bread flour has a bit more protein than AP flour, so makes a bit nicer, chewier bread.

I have been specifically using Bob’s Red Mill Artisanal Bread Flour, and Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast. I bought a pound package of yeast in October 2020, and it’s still in use seven months later, though I did get another package the other day. I use active dry yeast because I’m used to it – and – it shows in the proofing stage that it’s still alive. No guessing.

The other really weird thing about this recipe is that I start it in a cold oven. I use the oven for proofing and raising, then just start baking when that is done. Stay tuned for instructions.

Recipe:

275 ml tap water
50 g honey
10 g yeast
10 g Kosher salt
20 g canola oil
500 g bread flour

Grease a standard bread loaf pan. I tend to use bacon grease for this part of the job. It’s what my mother-in-law Evelyn used when Peg was growing up, and the smell of bread with bacon grease makes Peg smile. My job is to make Peg smile, so I use bacon grease. (I also coat the loaf in bacon grease after baking to keep the top supple.)

Measure out the water. Place the measuring cup on the scale and zero (tare) it. Add 50 grams of honey. I microwave the the cup for 50 seconds to get 110-120F water in the cup. Mix in the yeast and set it aside.

In your (one – count ’em – one) mixing bowl, weigh out 10 grams of salt, 20 grams of canola oil, and 500 grams or so of flour. By now the yeast mixture should be active, with a layer of foam over the top. If not, your yeast is dead and you need to make a trip to the store.

Otherwise, mix in the yeast. I just fold it in with a scraper until it’s mostly incorporated, then turn the whole thing out onto a clean surface. Scrape the bowl clean – we’ll be using it for proofing in a few minutes.

Incorporate all loose flour into the dough, and knead the dough for five to seven minutes, until the dough is relatively smooth. The dough should be not quite sticky.

Gather the dough and form into a ball – it should be slightly larger than a softball at this point. Cut a deep (1″) cross in the top of the dough ball (it’s to make the rise more uniform), place it in the bowl, and cover with a clean tea towel or cloth. Put the bowl in a cold oven, and place a pan of hot water (1 quart/1 liter) in the oven next to the bowl. Let this proof for 30 minutes.

Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out on the counter and flatten it out into a rectangle. Roll the rectangle into a loaf shape. Make the loaf pretty and place in the greased bread pan.

The loaf pan is covered with the tea towel and placed in the oven with new hot water, and allowed to proof until it’s just about 1-1.5″ above the pan rim. Remove the hot water, remove the towel, and make decorative and functional cuts into the bread’s crust if desired. A single 0.5″ deep cut down the center lets the bread rise nicely while baking.

Turn on the oven to 350F, and set a 40 minute timer. Assuming your oven is like mine (it’s within 5F), the bread will be done at that point. Remove from the oven, remove from the pan, and cool on a rack. When still warm but cool enough to handle, brush the top of the loaf with butter (or bacon grease 🙂 ).

Let cool completely before cutting into it.

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