Saturday, October 17, 2015

White Bread, Using Julia Child's Recipe

Lest anyone be in doubt, I cook things that don't have chocolate or loads of sugar in them too. When you bake your own bread at home you can understand why the French have made a cult of baking and eating bread. The actions of making it are calming. The smell of fresh bread permeates the house, often out onto the street. Making bread is an all senses experience.

This recipe is from Julia Child. Don't be intimidated, her recipes often are quite simple. What Julia understood, and what she taught, is that simplicity demands perfection.

The list of ingredients is short.

2 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
7 cups bread flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 cup softened unsalted butter

Take 1/2 cup of the water, 1 tablespoon dry yeast, 1 tablespoon sugar, mix to dissolve, then wait five minutes until the yeast proves, and you have a nice, active and foamy base. That's a dough hook that's on the stand mixer. It's made special for this kind of thing.

Add in 3 cups of the flour, mix well, use a spatula or flat spoon to scrape down the sides. Add in the rest of the flour, the salt, and the softened butter. Knead for eight minutes. To knead with a stand mixer, use one of the lower two speed settings, and take off the side lock so that if the dough ball begins to stop the motor the body of the mixer will lift up and then reset once the dough starts moving again. Kneading by hand is another process, done on a lightly floured board or a floured cloth, you fold a piece of the dough over, push with the heel of your hand, and keep doing that until your arms fall off.

Generously butter a large bowl, place the dough ball into that, and turn it until the dough is completely covered with butter. Cover that closely with plastic and allow to rise for at least forty mintues, or until doubled in size. Some recipes tell you to do this in a warmer place, warmer means a faster rise, with more volume. Doing this at room temperature means a slower rise and a slightly denser, but more tender consistency. Another way to do this part is to put the covered dough into the refrigerator and let it rise all night. I'm not going to do this because I want my bread sooner than tomorrow.
When the dough has doubled in size, generously butter two loaf pans, while you have the oven getting slightly warm. The time it takes to butter the pans, wash your hands, separate the dough into two roughly equal parts, shape that into loaves, place those into the pans, should be just enough to make the oven slightly warmer than room temperature.
Cover the loaves closely with plastic, or use a slightly dampened towel, and allow for a second rise of about thirty to thirty five minutes, again, we're looking for a doubling in size.
Set them on the counter, while you reset the oven for three hundred fifty degrees. When you reach temperature, put them onto the center rack and bake forty minutes. You want a nice, golden brown color, and the loaf to give a hollow "thunk" when you rap it with a knuckle. It took another eight mintues for me to satisfied with these.
Immediately remove the bread (it's bread now! hooray!) from the pan, put it on a rack, and give it a quick rubbing with more butter. This will make the crust quite tender and perfect for sandwiches or toast. If you prefer a crunchier crust, by all means, skip this and nobody will fault you.

The house smells great. The Royals just took the lead after being behind most of the game. Like Ice Cube says "Today was a good day."