I'm way deep in the winter blah's over here, having the hardest time feeling energized and alive during hibernation season. For you people who love winter, who find beauty in snow and icicles, and who can still bound out of bed on a ten degree morning full of vim and vigor, I have one question: How do you do it?
This season I've made Sundays our soup-n-bread dinner day. It's nice because a big pot of soup will provide leftovers during the week, and same for the bread. I don't always get to the bread part, depending on how busy I've been, but it's nice when it happens. A few months ago I made this recipe for "Everything Bread" which I found in Taste of Home magazine. Not only did it turn out delicious, but it was deceptively easy to make. The only thing I ended up adjusting was the amount of loaves, because 1 loaf made from this recipe makes a whopping 25 slices! While this would be fine if we were having guests over after church for dinner, I prefer to make two smaller loaves rather than one large loaf, and to freeze the other one.
Here's what you need:
1 pkg. (1/4 oz.) yeast
3/4 cup warm water (between 90-110 degrees)
1 cup warm milk- I used 2% (also between 90-110 degrees)
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 Tbs. sugar
1 egg yolk
1 and 1/2 tsp. salt
4 to 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I like to use bread flour, but all purpose works fine)
1 egg white (saved from your egg yolk!)
2 tsp. water
coarse sea salt, dried minced onion, poppy seeds, sesame seeds.
In a large mixing bowl, dissolve the yeast in warm water. Add milk, butter, egg yolk, salt, and 2 cups flour. Mix for a few minutes on medium speed and add another 2 cups of flour until it forms a firm dough.
Turn on to a well floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. It takes less than 10 minutes. You'll end up with a lump of dough like this:
Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. I used olive oil for the "grease".
Cover, and let rise until doubled, which takes about an hour.
Warning: Do not set this to rise on top of your wood stove and then walk away to do something else for an hour without checking on it, or else the bread will start to bake in the bowl. Do you hear me?
Punch dough down and turn out onto a lightly floured surface; divide dough in half. Here is where you can have your choice about what type of loaf you want. You can take one of the dough halves and divide into thirds, shaping each into a 7-9 inch rope. Place the ropes on a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or well greased) and braid, tucking the ends under the loaf.
You can do the same with the other dough half, or else you can simply shape it in a long french loaf style on the baking sheet. Finally, add your 2 tsp. water to the egg white and brush both loaves. Sprinkle with sea salt, onion, poppy, and sesame seeds. Bake at 375 for 22-28 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack. Watch it disappear when your husband starts on it!
Note: Two kitchen items that will make life easier for you on this one: A dough scraper, which is just a small flat tool made out of plastic that will help you scrape the dough out of the bowl (and off of your counter!) and a cooking thermometer for getting your water temperature just right. You want your water temperature to activate the yeast; too cold and it won't, too hot and it will kill it.