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Dear busy bees,
Since life has been a bit frenetic of late (you'll soon be hearing why!), I have been lazy about making bread. Sadly that means we haven't had bread in a while! I look forward to the day when I will have a freezer and can bake bread ahead of time ... but until then!! Today I had just a little time at home in the morning, in between errands and some hospice work, so while I took a shower did my dishes ran the laundry finished some tasks, I made this nice "lazy" loaf of sandwich bread (I doubled it to make two). I call it lazy because it is a sort of "dump together" recipe, and it is finished in one day; usually, I use the overnight process of bread, which I tend to prefer. I did make a batch of whole wheat bread dough to stick in the fridge while this was rising, but that is a recipe for another time.
I used all white flour for this bread, but usually we use a mixture of wheat and white, or all wheat. If you use wheat flour, you will need to add a little extra moisture.
Tip: When using flour, I ALWAYS WEIGH IT to measure. Sorry to scream. It's just THAT IMPORTANT!!
Lazy-Day Sandwich Bread from Cook's Illustrated The Best American Classics
a single recipe makes one 9-inch loaf
3 1/2 - 3 3/4 cups (17 1/2 to 18 3/4 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (plus extra for work surface)
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm milk (95 F)
1/3 cup warm water (95 F)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons honey (I used honey & molasses mixed)
package (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) rapid-rise or instant yeast
Optional: Add vital wheat gluten and/or dough enhancer, per the measurements on the container
Warm environment: Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Once the oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain the heat for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven.
Mixing the dough: Meanwhile, mix flour and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook or paddle. Mix the milk, water, butter, honey in another bowl - check that temp is about 95 - 110 F. Sprinkle in yeast and whisk to dissolve. Turn the machine onto low and slowly add the liquid. When the dough comes together, increase speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and satiny, stopping the machine two or three times to scrape the dough from the hook, if necessary, about 10 minutes. (After 5 minutes of mixing, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time and up to 1/4 cup total, until the dough is no longer sticky.) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead to form a smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds (if, like me, your kitchen is in chaos and you don't have time to wipe down and flour a counter, just hold the dough in both hands and knead in the air! This works about up to a double-batch!).
First rise: Place the dough in a very large lightly oiled mixing bowl, flipping the dough once so it is lightly coated. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and place in the warmed oven until dough doubles in size, about 45 minutes.
To shape the sandwich loaf: Press the dough into thick rectangle about 1 inch thick, and no longer than 9 inches. With the long side facing you, roll the dough firmly into a snug cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch the seam closed with your fingers. Place the dough in a greased 9x5x3" loaf pan. Cover loosely with plastic wrap; set aside in a warm place until dough almost doubles in size, about 25 minutes.
Baking: Keep one oven rack at the lowest position and place the other at the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Place an empty loaf pan on the bottom rack (use a metal pan). Bring about 2 cups of water to a boil and pour into the empty loaf pan in the oven. Set the bread loaf on the middle rack. The pan of water will create a steamy environment, giving you a crusty, well, crust! Bake until an instant-read thermometer stuck to the center of the loaf reads 195 degrees, about 40 - 50 minutes.
Remove bread from pan and cool on wire rack - or it will be soggy on the bottom!
Here's to our daily bread,
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