(Adapted from The Fresh Loaf: Your Basic Loaf)
This week I am sharing a bread recipe that I use practically everyday. Since I don't have a bread machine, I use my hands to bake our everyday loaf.
In the past, I have experimented with a number of recipes. Some yielded one loaf and some yielded two loaves. But I wanted a fool-proof recipe that will yield one perfect loaf.
You can bake a purely white bread loaf or a loaf that has 50:50 ratio of all purpose flour (APF) and whole wheat flour. I used this recipe here. Though I tweaked the measures a bit!
Here is the recipe:
3 cups flour
You can use:
- 3 cups all purpose flour OR
- 1 and a half cup APF + 1 and a half cup whole wheat flour OR
- 2 cups APF + 1 cup whole wheat flour
Instant yeast: 1 and a half teaspoon (If using active dry yeast, use 1 tablespoon.)
Milk (any variety): 3/4th cup
Water: 1/2 cup
Sugar: 1 and a half tablespoon
Salt: 1 teaspoon (level)
White oil (Olive oil/ Soya bean/ Any refined oil): 1 and a half tablespoon
A little flour for dusting the work surface
1. First pour the milk into the water and warm the mixture till it is lukewarm. Add sugar. Make sure that the water-milk mixture is not HOT! Should just feel warm to touch if you dip your finger into it. Add the yeast and mix with spoon. Keep undisturbed in warm place for 10 minutes.
2. In the meantime, sift flour and salt in a pan. Add oil and mix well using your fingers. I also add some mixed herbs or garlic bread spices at this stage (optional).
3. By this time the wet mixture will turn frothy because the yeast has proved and become active. Pour the mixture on the flour and start kneading the dough. Alternatively, you can use the dough hook of your stand mixer to knead the dough. After kneading a while, you will get a shaggy dough.
5. Keep in a warm dry place for one hour. I generally keep it in my microwave with the light on. After 45 minutes - 1 hour, the dough will rise and become double in size.
6. Dust the working surface with a little dry flour. Place the dough ball on the work surface and deflate gently by pressing it down. Avoid punching the dough. Now, spread the dough into a rectangular shape. Start rolling the dough from one end press down with fingers.
7. Repeat this process. Keep rolling and pinching the dough at the seams. This will prevent formation of air pockets while the loaf is baking.
8. Finally you will get a log shape like this:
9. Grease the loaf pan and place the loaf in it, seam down. I use a loaf pan that is 9 inches in length and 5 inches in width. Now, keep it for the second rise in a warm dry place for 40 minutes. The loaf will rise nearly 1 inch above the loaf pan. Place a longitudinal cut on the surface of the loaf. This will allow the trapped air to escape and prevent cracking of the top crust.
10. Pre-heat the oven to 240 degrees C for ten minutes. Place a small steel bowl of water inside the oven during pre-heating.
11. After 10 minutes, place the loaf tin in the oven. Before placing it in the oven, cover the loaf tin with tin foil. This will prevent hardening of the top crust. Bake for 10 minutes at 240 degrees C.
12. After 10 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 210 degrees C and bake for another 25 minutes. All along the loaf should be loosely covered with foil to allow the loaf to rise.
13. Next, remove the foil and set the oven to Grill option for 5 minutes at the same temp. This will give you the lovely golden brown crust. Now take the loaf out of the oven.
14. Brush the loaf with butter/oil/milk.
15. Let the loaf cool to room temperature. Slice and serve with dollops of butter.