“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.” –Robert Browning
I have said it before and I’ll say it again… I LOVE BREAD. Any bread you can think of…I’ll most likely devour a slice…or two…or three. Sour dough has always been on the top of my list as a favorite. I tried for a while in making homemade sour dough. I was successful for only a couple loafs…until I let the dreaded starter die (aka The B****). I think my failure in keeping the starter alive was a combination of improper storage and a temperature I couldn’t regulate. I’m sure it’s not as challenging as I make it out to be but it took more than I could figure out at the time.
So…I moved on to something with less management and that brings me to Country White Bread. I was exploring the world wide web the other day looking for good bread sites that will provide not only great tips…but photos…lots of good photos to see what I’m up against. I found www.thekneadforbread.com which lead to their host site and the following recipe provided by www.cookingbread.com.
It seemed easy enough. We needed a simple bread around the house that would suffice for morning toast and lunchtime sandwiches. The prep was not difficult but did take time. After mixing the basic ingredients there is a 15 minute resting period. I’ve tested the recipe twice now and after the resting period it has taken me roughly 30 minutes each time to mix & knead the remaining flour into the dough. After the major mixing is complete the dough must rest for another hour or longer until it doubles in size. After degassing the bread and fitting it to 2 loaf pans you must wait another 45-60 minutes to let it rise again. Then it’s time to bake…difficult, no…time consuming, a little.
Typically homemade anything takes time. I’ve baked four loaves since testing this recipe. If I would have purchased four loaves at the store it would have cost me at least $15. Also the quality of the ingredients are ultimately unknown since it’s already processed. By making my bread at home I know what’s gone into it and I’ve saved $. $15 will buy all the ingredients I need to make the bread and I’d be able to make at a minimum of 12 loaves. It puts into perspective the time/effort/quality/ingredients and so much more that goes into the loaf of bread you pick up at the grocery store every week.
The original recipe calls for buttermilk. I’ve yet to come across organic buttermilk, so I’ve made a mix of organic sour cream and whole organic milk. I don’t have access to organic bread flour so I use Bob’s Red Mill organic flour which “claims” to be great for bread making. The results so far have been delicious! Tonight I tested the recipe for the second time and the loaves turned out light and airy. I’m extremely happy with the results and mark this one as tested and confirmed! Here is my take on the Country White Bread recipe…
* = organic
*^ = organic / local
Country White Bread (2 -5×9 loaf pans, 375 degrees for 30-35 minutes)
5 – 6 cups bread flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Organic Flour * – and note, you will not use all the flour)
1 cup lukewarm water
1 cup buttermilk (I used 1/4 cup sour cream mixed into enough milk to make 1 cup *^)
1/4 cup olive oil *
2 eggs *^
1/2 cup sugar *
1 teaspoon kosher salt
4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 egg white
3 tablespoons cream *^
In a mixing bowl measure out 1 1/2 cups of flour and with a wooden spoon stir in the water.
Because I didn’t have buttermilk, I measured out 1/4 cup organic sour cream and mixed in enough organic whole milk to make 1 cup of liquid. Next, incorporate the milk into the flour/water mixture – you will have a pancake batter consistency at this point. Next stir in olive oil till incorporated. In a separate bowl whisk eggs, sugar, and kosher salt together and stir into the flour/water/milk/oil mixture until incorporated. Lastly add in room temperature yeast and stir until incorporated. Cover and set aside for 15 minutes to rest. After resting, incorporate a 1/2 cup of flour at a time till it’s too hard to mix with the spoon. On a clean flat work surface add 1/2 cup flour and pour out the dough onto the surface. Knead the flour into the dough till the dough is no longer sticky.
[NOTE] I used only 5 cups of the 6 total cups of flour listed in the original recipe. It may take more or less depending on your climate and quality of ingredients [END NOTE]. Place your dough in large lightly oil coated bowl; rotate the dough to make sure all sides are coated. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a dry warm place for 1 hour or until the dough has doubled in size.
After the resting period, on a lightly floured surface pour out the dough, cut in half and degas the dough by lightly kneading it out. [NOTE] Do not overwork the dough or add too much flour. It will cause the dough to be rubbery & dense. [END NOTE]
Shape each ball of dough into a rectangle, fitting the length of a 5×9 loaf pan. Roll the dough like a jelly roll and pinch the seam closed with your fingers. Place each roll into a greased 5×9 loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and rest for another 45-60 minutes or until it’s doubled in size.
After the resting period, brush each loaf with the egg wash. Let the loaves rest 5 minutes and then brush each loaf again with the egg wash mixture.
Now it’s time to bake – place in a pre-heated 375 degree oven for 30-35 minutes. The loaves will feel light and have a hollow sound when done. Remove the loaves from the pans and place on a wire rack to cool…enjoy!