We love this bread. It is delicious fresh from the oven, or toasted and slathered with preserves or butter. Thick slices make flavorful French toast and incredible sandwiches. For quick croutons, slices can be cubed, sprinkled with herbs and sautéed in a little olive oil.
And, if you want shaping options like artisan boules (see below recipe), braided loaves, hamburger buns, rolls, or even giant pretzels… this recipe has got you covered.
|WHAT YOU NEED
||WHAT TO DO
|1 cup warm water (100°F)
1/16 teaspoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
|To proof the yeast (for viability): Confirm water temperature with an instant-read thermometer. Whisk together in a 1-pint measuring cup; set aside until there are signs of froth (4-5 minutes).
||Warm sugar water helps activate yeast, but over 120°F risks killing it.
|1 cup whole milk (not raw)
1/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-sized pieces
2 tablespoons honey
|In a 1-quart tempered glass measuring cup, heat on high power to 100-110°F (just warm enough to melt the butter), removing to stir with a fork and test with the thermometer. Set aside.
||Raw milk inhibits yeast.
Glass makes monitoring easy.
|25 ounces (5 cups) bread flour
1 tablespoon flax seed meal (optional)
2 teaspoons fine sea salt
|In a 5-quart bowl, weigh the flour. Whisk all together; make a large hollow in the center. Pour milk and yeast mixtures into the middle; whisk inside the hollow to slowly draw in flour. As the liquid thickens, switch to a large mixing spoon, using a kneading motion (scoop flour from the sides of the bowl to plunge into the center, rotate bowl a quarter turn; repeat) to incorporate most of the remaining flour.
||Weighing flour yields consistent results.
Bread flour’s high gluten improves rising structure.
Salt tightens gluten.
Flax is rich in Omega 3.
Drawing in the flour results in easier mixing.
|1 tablespoon bread flour
||Evenly dust the board. Turn dough out over top; fold 8-10 times. Flip smooth side up; invert bowl over top and rest 20 minutes.
||Resting lets flour absorb liquids with less kneading.
|1 tablespoon bread flour
||Evenly dust the board. Place dough over top and knead (fold, press palm into dough, rotate a quarter turn; repeat) 1-2 minutes.
||Kneading develops gluten, increasing dough elasticity.
|1 tablespoon bread flour
||First Proof: Dust the dough surface; place in a 2-quart glass measuring/batter bowl. Cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap; let rise at room temperature (70-75°F) until doubled in volume (about 1 1/2 hours).
||Glass makes monitoring easy.
|2 tablespoons shortening
||Evenly grease two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans; set aside.
|Up to 1 teaspoon bread flour, only if absolutely needed
||To shape loaves (see other shaping options below): Turn dough out onto the board. With a chef’s knife, or bench scraper, divide into 2 portions. Punch each into a 7×7-inch square, roll each into a log; pinch bottoms and ends to seal. Place sealed sides down in prepared loaf pans.
||Excess flour interferes with dough shaping.
||Second Proof: Cover with an inverted oversized storage container; let rise at room temperature until almost doubled in volume (about 1 1/2 hours).
||Covering keeps dough surface soft for expansion.
||In last 30 minutes of rising, position an oven rack just below center; preheat a convection oven to 400°F (verify with an oven thermometer). Bake until golden brown and interior temperature reaches 200°F (22-25 minutes). Note: Lack of oven spring (rising in the oven) indicates over proofing.
||400°F yields a delicate, bubble covered crust.
Ovens often run hot or cold, or preheat slowly.
||Promptly transfer bread from pans to wire racks. Cool thoroughly under the inverted oversized storage container before bagging.
||Covering reduces dehydration.
ROSEMARY BREAD FROM HEAVEN
To the milk mixture add 1/4 cup chopped fresh rosemary plus 1/4 cup flax or sesame seeds.
OATMEAL BREAD FROM HEAVEN
To the milk mixture add 1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal. Reduce flour by 5 ounces (1 cup).
RUSTIC BREAD FROM HEAVEN
To the milk mixture add 1/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal, flax, sesame, poppy or sunflower seeds (any combination). Reduce flour by 2 tablespoons.
HERBED BREAD FROM HEAVEN
To the milk mixture add 1 tablespoon Italian herb mix (basil, parsley, oregano) plus 3 teaspoons minced garlic. Tip: After separating a garlic clove from the head; cut off the root end. Place the broad side of a chef’s knife over top; strike with your fist or palm. Release the peel and discard. Cut in half, place cut sides down; rock the knife over top to mince
FOR ARTISAN BOULE: Makes 1. Follow recipe down to the completion of the first rise. Evenly grease the interior of a 6-quart enameled cast iron dutch oven with 1 tablespoon shortening; set aside. To shape: Punch dough into a disc, fold edges over to form a ball, pinch edges together and place smooth side up in the dutch oven. Cover with lid and complete second rise as directed. When baking, keep covered during the first the first 15 minutes of baking. Remove lid and finish baking as directed.
FOR BRAIDED LOAF: Makes 1. Follow recipe down to the completion of the first rise. Evenly grease one half sheet pan with 1 tablespoon shortening; set aside. To shape: Divide dough into thirds. Shape each piece into a smooth 20-inch rope. Without pulling or stretching the dough, place ropes lengthwise across sheet pan, with 3 ends together at the far end. Pinch far ends together and tuck under. Braid ropes. Pinch finishing ends together and tuck under. Complete second rise and baking as directed.
FOR BUNS: Makes 16. Follow recipe down to the completion of the first rise: Evenly grease 2 half sheet pans with 2 tablespoons shortening. To shape: Roll or punch dough into a 14-inch round. With a chef’s knife or bench scraper, cut 16 equal “pizza” wedges (cut round in half, each half into 2 wedges, each wedge in half and in half again). Shape each wedge into a ball by tucking points under and pinching to seal; flatten into a 3-inch round. Space buns, sealed sides down, across pans. Complete second rise and baking as directed, but baking will take about 15 minutes.
FOR ROLLS: Makes 18. Follow recipe down to the completion of the first rise: Evenly grease two 9×9-inch square cake pans with 2 tablespoons shortening. To shape: Roll or punch into a 14-inch round. With a chef’s knife or bench scraper, cut 18 equal “pizza” wedges (cut round in half, each half into 3 wedges, each wedge into 3). Shape each wedge into a ball by tucking points under and pinching to seal. Space rolls, sealed sided down, in pans. Complete second rise and baking as directed, but baking will take about 15 minutes.
FOR GIANT PRETZELS: Makes 12. Jessi and I created this variation May 8th, 2002. They went so fast we were asked to make a second batch. Follow recipe down to the completion of the first rise. Evenly grease 2 half sheet pans with 2 tablespoons shortening; set aside. To shape: Roll dough into a 12×14-inch rectangle. In a small bowl, whisk 1 egg with 1 tablespoon water. Brush evenly over dough. Sprinkle evenly with 1 tablespoon kosher salt. With a pizza cutter, cut into twelve 1×14-inch strips. Shape pretzel knots directly on sheet pans, spacing 2 inches apart. Complete second rise and baking as directed, but baking will take about 15 minutes.
TO FREEZE: Encase in bags marked with date/contents. Defrost in the bags (to minimize dehydration) at room temperature. Do not refrigerate; it stales bread.