I love the title of this bread. It’s from the only cookbook I ever made bread from–Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads. Every recipe I ever make from this book is perfection, and every recipe has a little anecdote or introduction that really makes the baking more personal.
That’s why I love cookbooks so much. Other people’s personal experiences told to me.
Bernard Clayton calls this white bread “The First Loaf” because it’s easy, versatile, basic, and freakin’ delicious. A great loaf for a beginner baker or seasoned veteran, it’s a recipe developed by the big man himself as an introduction to bread baking.
So let’s get acquainted with it, shall we?
The First Loaf (makes two medium loaves)
- 5-6 C all-purpose flour
- 3 T sugar
- 2 t salt
- 1 pkg dry yeast
- 1/4 C nonfat dry milk
- 2 C hot water
- 3 T shortening
In a mixing bowl, combine 2 C flour, sugar, salt, yeast, and dry milk, and mix together until blended. Pour the hot water into the dry ingredients and mix (I used the flat beater attachment for this part).
Add the shortening and continue beating.
Add 1 C flour and beat for three minutes at medium speed with the mixer (or 100 vigorous strokes by hand. Really). Switch to the dough hook and continue adding flour 1/4 C at a time until the dough forms a soft, elastic ball around the hook.
Knead for 10 minutes (if using the mixer. If by hand, knead until the dough is soft and elastic). Careful not to add too much flour–the dough should clear the sides of the bowl, but it’s okay if it still sticks a bit to the very bottom of the bowl while mixing. Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise until doubled in size (about an hour).
Once it’s risen, punch down the dough, and turn onto a floured surface. Knead for a minute to get out air bubbles, and divide into two pieces.
Shape into loaves as follows:
Press the dough into a flat oval about the length of the pan. Fold the oval in half.
Pinch the seam tightly to seal and tuck under the ends. Place into two greased bread pans and cover with wax paper.
Allow them to seal until the dough doubles in size again, another 45 minutes. Twenty minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the loaves on the middle rack in the oven for ten minutes, then turn the heat down to 350 for another 25-30 minutes. Turn the loaves halfway through baking for even browning, and take ‘em out when the loaves are a nice, beautiful, dark, golden brown.
When you tap the bottom of the loaves, they should sound hollow if they are done baking.
Cool on a wire rack…or just slice immediately.
It’s hard to resist trying it when your entire house smells like baking bread.
Is there a better smell out there? The smell of baking bread always reminds me of my sister Erin, since she used to go into these bread baking frenzies in which she turned out five loaves that we all ate within ten minutes with piles of butter.
This bread slices really well, and tastes delicious with honey, butter, eggs, and as a sandwich (but probably not all at once). It toasts perfectly, and I froze a loaf to eat this weekend.
I wish I had time to bake bread more often–it is super therapeutic, and the process always makes me feel very calm and zen. Knead, rise, shape, rise, bake, eat, eat, and eat.
What’s your baking therapy?
This weekend I am spending time with Fritz’s dad and sister doing lots of work around a house they are trying to put back on the market. Blogging might be limited for the next couple of days, but I’ll be busy celebrating Friday the 13th and Sunday (my birthday) and Monday (MLK Jr’s birthday!). What are your plans for the long weekend? Anything good?