If you’d asked me what my biggest fear was when it came to baking, five years ago I’d have told you it was working with yeast.
Hated the stuff.
Couldn’t make it work no matter what I tried. And after countless numbers of flat breads and ugly looking half-risen dough, I had accepted the fact that I was never going to be any kind of bread baker at all.
But while I was in Korea–and with a lack of supply of savoury bread available at the bakeries there–I decided to tackle bread baking yet again in the hopes of having something I could eat that didn’t make me feel like my tastebuds were being attacked by an army of sugar.
Cindy Mushet’s The Art & Soul of Baking was my bread baking bible while I was over there. Covering everything from the basics of bread baking to baking in general, to creating mouth-watering pastries at home, this book got me through days snowed in days in the apartment and those bouts of homesickness I suffered simply from not being able to get my hands on some good ol’ savoury crusty bread.
This basic white loaf recipe can be adapted to almost anything you want. I’ve used it as is, or add in some favourite nuts to create more texture, or maybe even some herbs you’ve got lying around in abundance.
Ingredients (adapted from The Art & Soul of Baking)
1/2 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 cup warm milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 cups bakers flour
pinch of salt
1 egg, lightly beaten
In a medium sized bowl, mix water, sugar and yeast together until blended. Let the mixture sit for 10-15 minutes or until the yeast is activated and foamy.
Add in the warm milk and melted butter slowly.
Add the flour and salt, and mix with a plastic spatula for 2-3 minutes until the mixture starts coming together. Cover the dough with a tea towel or plastic wrap and let it rest for about 20 minutes or so.
Turn the dough out onto lightly floured surface and knead for about 4-7 minutes, until dough is smooth, firm and elastic.
You then need to let the dough sit and rest again in a lightly oiled tub for about 45-60 minutes, depending on how warm the area is. Make sure to cover the dough with a tea towel or plastic wrap while you wait for it to rise.
Once doubled in size, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface again, press down on the dough firmly to get rid of any air bubbles. Shape the dough to your liking and then place into a lightly oiled or buttered pan. You then need to proof (let it rise) the dough for a second time. Make sure to cover the top of the dough with a tea towel or plastic wrap yet again, and allow the dough to rise until the top of the dough has reached about 1/2-1 inch above the pan you’ve placed it in. This should take about 45-60 minutes.
Preheat your oven to 200 Degrees Celcius.
Brush the top of your dough with the lightly beaten egg and bake in the hot oven for about 30-40 minutes, until the bread is golden brown.
Take out of the oven, inhale the heavenly aroma of freshly baked bread, and dig in immediately. Sometimes happiness is nothing more than crusty bread, cheese and a cup of hot tea.