Oct 13, 2009

Easy, No Fail Bread for Beginners

Are you afraid to bake bread? Or think you don't have time? Despite rumors to the contrary, bread is really quite easy to make - and it's so much better than store-bought or even bread-machine-made bread.

Bread making is fun, too (and a great project to do with the kids, who'll love sinking their hands into the dough in order to knead it). And what can compare to a house filled with the marvelous scent of freshly baked bread?

In fact, the only downside to making bread at home is that it's so yummy it will disappear rapidly. Here's a really easy, delicious recipe to try:

What you need:a small cereal bowl
a saucepan
a dishtowel
a big mixing bowl
a large mixing spoon
a cookie sheet

1/3 cup + 1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 ½ packages dry yeast
4 1/2 cups flour, divided (for best results, use white flour)

1 tablespoon salt
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup oil
1 egg

How to do it:
In a small bowl, mix ½ cup warm water, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, and yeast; set aside. Good yeast will double in size by the time you’re ready to mix it into the dough.

In a saucepan, mix 1 cup flour with 1 ½ cups water. Cook on medium heat, stirring constantly. The mixture will get lumpy and stick to the pan, but keep cooking and stirring; it will smooth out.

Once the mixture is smooth, remove it from the stove and add 1/3 cup packed brown sugar, salt, milk, oil, egg, and 1 cup flour. Mix well. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture. Add 2 ½ cups flour. Mix well.

Leave the dough in the pan, covering it with a clean dish towel and placing it in a reasonably warm, non-drafty place for about 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
Sprinkle flour onto the kitchen counter or a cutting board and place the full lump of dough on it. (The dough should be shaped like a slightly flattened ball.) Sprinkle a small amount of flour on top of the dough. Knead* 2 to 3 minutes, or until smooth and elastic, using just enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.

Cover the dough again and let it sit for 15 minutes. Knead a few strokes, then cut into two equal parts. Cover and allow it to sit another 15 minutes. Shape each piece into a rounded rectangle. Place each rectangle onto a greased cookie sheet, cover with towel, and let rise
until about double. Bake at 375 ยบ for 30 to 35 minutes and enjoy!

* HOW TO KNEAD BREAD:
1. Cover your hands with a light dusting of flour.
2. Using the heel of your hands, press down and push the dough away from you. Then fold the dough back over itself, toward you.
3. Turn the dough one quarter- to half-way around and repeat step 2.
4. Follow the recipe directions to know how long to knead the dough. When the recipe doesn’t specify, knead until the dough is smooth and shiny. When you pinch a bit of well-kneaded dough in your fingers, it should feel a lot like pinching your earlobe.
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