My parents gave me their KitchenAid mixer a year ago. They aren’t really appliance people and I actually can’t remember them ever using it. You might expect that I started using it the minute I brought it home. But you would be wrong. It’s older than I am, and appliances that are old enough to purchase alcohol make me nervous. I was worried I would break it, or that I would turn it on and discover it didn’t actually work, or that…actually, just those two things. So it sat on the bottom shelf of my appliance cupboard for almost a year. Last month, I was making marshmallows, and you absolutely need a stand mixer for the marshmallows I was making, so I finally pulled it out. You’d think I would have taken it easy for the first run since I was so worried about breaking it and all. Not so much. The recipe I was using had several reviews stating that it had caused massive KitchenAid destruction. But it worked, and the marshmallows didn’t cause its twenty-one year old motor to die, so now I use it a lot. This weekend I did something I’ve been wanting to do since I got it, and made bread.
I read recently that the original just-add-water cake mixes had to be reformulated to require extra additions (eggs, oil, etc). They were too easy and made housewives feel useless. After making dough in the mixer I understand how they felt. I put in all the ingredients, turned in on and ten minutes later I had gorgeous dough. Seriously, this dough was everything bread dough should be. I felt like I was cheating. Washing the dishes afterwards was more work than making the bread itself.
If John and I eating half the loaf in an afternoon is any indication, this is good bread. It’s easy bread, but it’s really tasty. This is the kind of bread that makes you look forward to making a sandwich for lunch, and it’s great toasted as well. It’s also the kind of bread that gets you excited to spend more time baking bread. After all, I barely lifted a finger and I ended up with this. Surely if I put in exponentially more work I would end up with something exponentially better, right?
If anyone has recommendations for the best bread recipe book ever, I’d love to see them. While my mom is an amazing bread baker, she doesn’t really work from the sort of recipes I need (hers say things like “add enough flour to get the right consistency”), so I’d like to find a fantastic cook book to steer me in the right direction.
American Sandwich Bread
The New Best Recipe (published by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated)
Time: About 2 hours (lots of inactive time)
Yield: One 9-inch loaf
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm whole milk (about 110 degrees)
1/3 cup warm water (about 110 degrees)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 tablespoons honey
1 envelope (about 2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast (also called rapid rise)
Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and heat the oven to 200 degrees. Once the oven temperature reaches 200 degrees, maintain the heat for 10 minutes, then turn off the oven.
Mix 3 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook. Mix the milk, water, butter, honey, and yeast in a 2-cup liquid measuring cup. Turn the machine to low and slowly add the liquid. When the dough comes together, increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough is smooth and satiny, stopping the machine two or three times to scrape dough from the hook, if necessary, about ten minutes. (After five minutes of kneading, if the dough is still sticking to the sides of the bowl, add the remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time and up to 1/4 cup total, until the dough is no longer sticky.) Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface; knead to form a smooth, round ball, about 15 seconds.
Place the dough in a very lightly oiled large bowl, rubbing the dough around the bowl to coat lightly. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the warmed oven until the dough doubles in size, 40 to 50 minutes.
Gently press the dough into an 8-inch square that measures 1 inch thick. Starting with the side farthest away from you, roll the dough firmly into a cylinder, pressing with your fingers to make sure the dough sticks to itself. Turn the dough seam-side up and pinch it closed. Place the dough seam-side down in a greased 9 by 5-inch loaf pan and press it gently so it touches all four sides of the pan. Cover with plastic wrap; set aside in a warm spot until the dough almost doubles in size, 20 to 30 minutes.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Boil 2 cups of water and pour into a baking pan, and place it on the bottom rack. If possible, put the loaf on a rack above the baking pan of water (my oven is much too small to have a loaf of bread on anything but the bottom rack) otherwise put the two pans side by side. Bake until an instant-read thermometer inserted at an angle from the short end just above the pan rim into the center of the loaf reads 195 degrees, 40 to 50 minutes. Remove the bread from the pan, transfer to a wire rack, and cool to room temperature. Slice and serve.