I feel like teachers, mentors, and parents are always instructing us to step out of our comfort zones. Whether it’s reaching out and talking to someone I don’t know, visiting a new yoga studio, or taking an AP class in a subject that I truly hate, I always feel encouraged to take risks. Clearly, with taking risks comes the possibility of complete and utter failure, but there is also the chance for sweet and somewhat unexpected success. You just may make a new friend, master Balancing Side-Crow pose, or blow the AP graders out of the water and receive a 5 on that dreaded AP exam (this is obviously wishful thinking since AP exams start this week…).
In the spirit of taking risks, I decided to put my beloved piecrusts and York Peppermint Patties aside for the weekend and bake homemade bread. Considering the fact that I had never baked bread before (not including self-rising bread-baking in Sunday School as a 3rd grader), there was obviously the opportunity for disaster. Would the bread be too tough? Too chewy? Am I actually supposed to punch bread? How the heck does yeast work?
Despite these anxious thoughts scrambling around in my head, taking a risk has never been more rewarding. The second I bit down into a piece of warm white bread straight out of the oven, the one taste surpassing all of the others was that of sweet and savory success. Then I refocused on the warm and steaming bread. Mmm. Wowza it was good. And we even still have some left in the kitchen because one of my brothers and my dad are out of town for the weekend. Though, I’m guessing the remnants will last for less than 24 hours after their return to Davidson. I’ve already mentioned my hatred and jealousy of Bradford’s high metabolism…
So take this risk. I promise it’s worth it. This recipe is actually not hard at all—I was just daunted by the magical yeast conundrum. Here’s what you knead to know (get it?):
- Source: The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook (not sure if I’m a fan of this title)
- Time: about 4 ½ hours before serving or day ahead
- Yield: 2 loaves, each about 16 servings
- Notes: 160 calories per serving. Low in fat, cholesterol.
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- about 8 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ¾ cups milk
- butter or margarine
- In large bowl, combine sugar, salt, yeast, and 3 cups flour. In 2-quart saucepan over low heat, heat milk and 4 tablespoons butter or margarine until very warm (120º-130º). Butter or margarine does not need to melt.
- With mixer at low speed, gradually beat liquid into dry ingredients just until blended. Increase speed to medium; beat 2 minutes. Beat in 1 ¼ cups flour to make a thick batter; continue beating 2 minutes, scraping bowl often. With wooden spoon, stir in 4 cups flour.
- Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, working in more flour (about ¼ cup) while kneading. Shape dough into ball; place in greased large bowl, turning dough to grease top. Cover; let rise in warm place (80º-85º, use bread proofing feature on oven) until doubled, about 1 hour.
- Punch down dough. Turn dough onto lightly floured surface; cut in half; cover and let rest 15 minutes. Grease two 9’’ by 5’’ loaf pans.
- Shape each half of dough into loaf by rolling each into a rectangle and rolling the dough up tightly to press out air bubbles, and pinch seam to seal it. Place in loaf pan, cover, let rise for one hour. (Whoops I forgot to let it sit for an hour…but I didn’t get food poisoning or anything, so it’s all good).
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. If desired, brush loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine. Bake loaves 30 to 35 minutes, until golden and loaves test done (knock on the top and listen to see if it sounds hollow). Remove loaves from pans; cool on wire racks.
And then if you want to make it truly southern cuisine, y’all, spread some Palmetto cheese from South Carolina on it, and taste the cheesy goodness. Seriously, enjoy the spicy cheese melting onto the warm bread and dissolving in your mouth. (Might want to go take a run after this). Tuna salad on top is almost as good. Bon appétit!