There are few comforts in this world like sinking your teeth into a slice of buttery, warm bread fresh out of the oven. Homemade bread, as I found out yesterday for the first time, is remarkably easy to make, though a little time consuming. It is also one of the VERY few foods to come from my little apartment kitchen that used exact measurements, as opposed to my usually trusty handfuls and “eyeballing.” Luckily, though, I had the time, the tools (which mostly consisted of my hands) and the patience to make it work.
So, it goes without saying that this delicious bread recipe should be the first to start us off, as it was one of the first of many cooking challenges I hope to share through this blog. After all, cooking is trial and error, and patience, patience, patience (something which is, for most of us, a constant learning process).
Let me share the surprisingly simple process with you…
Yield: 2 loaves
2 1/4-oz. packages active dry yeast (found in any grocery store, usually in three-packs)
2 to 4-1/2 cups white flour
1 tbsp. salt
2 tbsp. sugar
2 cups warm water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Nonstick cooking spray
In large mixing bowl combine yeast, 2 cups flour, salt, sugar; add water and oil and mix lightly with a wooden spoon for 30 seconds, then vigorously for 3 minutes. Add the rest of the flour by hand until the dough is very stiff. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth, elastic, and no longer sticky. Place in a lightly greased bowl. Cover the bowl with a towel and leave in a warm place to rise (about 30 to 45 minutes).
After that time, the dough should be 1-1/2 to 2 times its original size. Punch it down with fist about 3 times. Divide into 2 equally-sized balls, cover with cloth and let rest for 10 minutes on the counter. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
After 10 minutes, coat the inside of a loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Slightly flatten the dough on a floured surface, and then roll it up and tuck under the ends. Place into the loaf pan. Bake for 40 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped. Put on racks to cool and brush with melted butter.
For crusty French-like bread, brush loaves with egg whites before baking.
Let the bread cool completely before slicing.