Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Recipe : Your Basic Stand-By Bread Recipe (2-3 loaves)

This recipe comes from Betty Crocker's All Time Favorite Cookbook, published in 1977.  I rescued this cookbook and a few others from my grandmother's kitchen after my grandfather died and we were cleaning out their house.  And I am so glad I did - I can't tell you how special it is to me to have cookbooks and notebooks with her handwritten notes and recipes to come back to.  Not only is there the family connection, but seriously - if your grandmother wrote out a recipe in her recipe file, you KNOW it's going to turn out.  :)

This recipe is quite forgiving as far as flour is concerned.  Use all white, or any portion of whole wheat up to 100% and it will still turn out.  This time I used 2 cups of multi-grain flour; I wouldn't recommend much more than that, and it needed less white flour than usual so be attentive to the texture of the dough.  My own edits to the recipe are highlighted.

Some tips from the side column:

1. Make sure the water is 105-115 degrees.  If you don't have a thermometer, test a drop of water on the inside of your wrist - the water should feel very warm but not hot.

2. Let the dough rise in a warm, draft-free place.  If necessary, set the bowl of dough on a wire rack over a bowl of warm water.  I put it inside the oven, with a bowl of hot water on the lower rack, and the oven light turned on.  PERFECT!!

3. To test the raised dough for doubled bulk, press two fingers about 1/2 inch into the raised dough.  If the dough has doubled, the impressions will remain.

White Bread

2 packages active dry yeast (or 4 1/2 teaspoons)
3/4 cup warm water (105-115 deg) - I add about a teaspoon of sugar to this
2 2/3 cups warm water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp salt
3 tbsp shortening
9-10 cups all-purpose flour
soft butter, margarine or shortening

Dissolve yeast in 3/4 cup warm water.  Let it rest til foamy.  Stir in 2 2/3 cups water, sugar, salt, shortening and 4 1/2 cups flour.  Beat until smooth.  Mix in enough of the remaining flour (first with a spoon then by hand) to make the dough easy to handle.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, about ten minutes.  Place in a greased bowl; turn the greased side up.  Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.  

Punch down the dough and divide in half (or three).  Roll each piece into a rectangle.  Roll up, beginning at the short side.  With the side of your hand, press down on each end to seal; fold  under loaf.  Place seam side down in a greased loaf pan.  Brush the loaves with butter.  Let rise until double, about 1 hour.

Heat oven to 425.  Place loaves on a low rack so that the tops of the pans are level with or slightly above the center of the oven.  For even browning, the pans should not touch each other or the sides of the oven.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until the loaves are a deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.  (If the loaves are browning too quickly, cover with foil for the last 15 minutes of baking.)  Immediately remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack.  For a soft, shiny crust, brush the hot loaves with butter or shortening.

(Use two loaf pans 9x5x3, or three pans 8.5x4.5x2.5)

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