Today I give praise to home-baked bread for all its qualities. Here is a quencher of hunger turning peanut butter and jelly into a lunch or half a zucchini and a sprinkling of parmesan into a filling meal. For imparting a luxurious illusion of leisure. For flavoring my home with a little bit of vintage eccentricity.
Baking bread wasn’t a plan or a dream. A clearance cookbook with tempting photos and clear directions started a pursuit I’d never before thought to pursue. Unlike most impulsive decisions I rethink or even drawn out decisions I rethink this felt so right. And it was. I was very happy being able to walk into the baking aisle and be one of the few reaching up to the very top shelf for a packet of yeast.
Until I saw a jar of yeast sitting on a friend’s kitchen counter. My little three packet diminished besides the jar. Of course I’d seen the jars on the top shelf before, but they were meant for someone else in a different world. I imagined all the loaves that could come out of a whole jar. If a single loaf made me happy what would a whole jar bring. That jar became my goal. Someday I, too, could bake enough to buy a whole jar. I may have surpassed the goal by a little. Somehow my house now goes through a jar in just a couple months. Mostly in pizza.
The past few weeks I’ve baked several loaves of bread in search of which one would be posted as the epitome of all bread. And I learned that a whole jar of yeast brings a lot of bread. This simple white wheat loaf was proclaimed the “best you’ve made so far.” And it looked just like one of those artisan bakery breads, which is after all what home-baked bread is trying to emulate.
Essential White Loaf
from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson
3 ½ cups white bread flour or
(my way) 1 cup bread flour, 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, 1 cup white wheat flour
1 package or 2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
2 teaspoons salt
1 ⅓cups warm water (generally specified as around 105° )
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
Combine flour/s, yeast and salt in a large bowl. Start by mixing in ¾ cup of water and add more if needed. Mix in butter. Dough should come together without being either sticky or dry (in the book it’s described as “a shaggy mess”). Turn out onto lightly floured surface or leave in bowl and sprinkle in a little flour to prevent any sticking. Knead until springy and smooth. This can take up to 10 minutes. Form dough into ball, place in deep oiled bowl, turn once to coat, cover with a towel and leave in a warm place to rise. Rise until doubled around an hour or so. Punch the dough down. Knead for a moment then form into a ball and place on a baking sheet or form into an oblong and place in a loaf pan. Let rise again for around an hour or until doubled. When almost fully doubled pre-heat oven to 425°. Dust the bread with flour just before putting into the oven. Bake about 35 minutes or until it’s brown and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom. Remove and let cool.