Egads. What a mess. Four inches of snow, followed by 2.76 inches of rain since midnight (and it's only noon!), and you get a real mess. Roads closed and water, water, everywhere. There was water nearly going into the boys' classroom, due to clogged gutters. Apparently they couldn't fix the problem, and as I left, they were going to dig a ditch to try to give the water somewhere to go. I can't see how it will work, since it's a low spot to begin with. Thankfully we haven't had the wind that was forecast.
So, it's a perfect day to hole up and bake! And in case you're also in the mood to bake (sounds like most of the country is socked in), here's my recipe for yummy homemade bread.
First of all, let me say - Get thee an electronic scale!!! Especially if you're new to breadmaking. I don't know what it is about my flour, but I always end up with too much flour if I measure it with my measuring cups. I have three different sets, and it's they are all the same, I checked. Also, if you want to be certain about the amount of salt you add, weigh it. The volume can be radically different for the same weight of salt depending on the manufacturer, and if it's kosher or not. Having the right amount of flour will significantly ease the learning process. I am so adamant about this, I'm not even going to give the measuring cup equivalents!
White Sandwich Loaf
Makes 3 1-1/2 lb loaves
20 ounces (567g) All-Purpose Flour
2 Tablespoons (22g) instant yeast
2 Tablespoons (28g) sugar
1 Tablespoon sea salt
2 Tablespoons (30g) vegetable oil
3-3/4 Cup (876g) milk, warmed in the microwave for about a minute or two to take off the chill. You don't want it warmer than about 105 degrees F.
29 ounces (825g) bread flour
This recipe also takes a Very Large Bowl. Mine is a 4 quart (liter) bowl, and if I had a larger one, I'd use it. In your Very Large Bowl, stir together the all purpose flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. Make a well in the center and add the oil and warmed milk. Mix well with a large wooden spoon. Stir in a cup of bread flour at a time until no more flour will go in with a spoon (about 5 Cups). I kind of jab the spoon into the center of the dough to try and work in as much as possible. Don't overdo it, though, you'll get the rest in there in a minute. Your dough will be fairly sticky at this point.
Pour most of the remaining flour onto a clean surface (I have a huge cutting board, but a clean counter will work as well). Turn out the dough onto the floured surface, cover your hands in flour, and knead the dough for 6-7 minutes, adding more flour as needed to keep your hands from getting goopy. Cover the dough with plastic wrap or your Very Large Bowl, and let it rest for about 20 minutes. Remove the bowl and resume kneading for 5-7 minutes. You may need to add small amounts of flour at a time to keep your dough from sticking to your hands and board. Your dough should be tacky, though, like a Post-It Note. Take out all that tension and aggression on the dough!
Sprinkle a little more flour in the dough bowl (yes, I'm still using my Very Large Bowl), put the dough in it, spritz the top with cooking spray or dust it with flour, and cover it with plastic wrap. The traditional method is to use a damp cloth, but it cools down the dough. Put the dough in a warm place (I use the top of my fridge) and let rise 60-90 minutes at 70-78 degrees (the cooler your house, the longer it takes), until when you poke the dough with a finger, it doesn't spring back.
Turn your dough out onto a LIGHTLY floured surface (you don't want to add flour at this point if you can help it). Flatten out your dough slightly, and divide it into 3pieces (if you have your scale handy, you can weigh them). Flatten out your dough, and place the smoothest side down. Shape into loaves. There are many ways to do this, and a quick internet search on shaping bread loaves will give you enough ways to do it differently each time. Drop it into a greased loaf pan (either a 1lb or 1-1/2lb loaf pan. I use the smaller because I like huge tops, but either will work), spray with cooking spray, or dust with flour, lightly cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 45-60 minutes.
If you like, you can lightly brush the tops with butter or egg wash before putting them into the oven.
Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes. Turn out the loaves onto a cooling rack.
Now here's the hard part - try not to cut them for at least an hour, preferably waiting until they're completely cool. We never can, and sacrifice one loaf almost immediately :-).