Still a Wonder

Whenever I think of comfort food, I can never wander far from bread. Just think peanut butter banana sandwiches (actually just any classic sandwich!), grilled cheese, and stuffing…oh, then french toast, croutons on clam chowder, garlic bread – the list goes on. There’s just something relieving about sinking one’s teeth (maybe first past a toasted golden crust) into the pillowy soft, moist bread.

Actually, just making the bread is happy enough of a travail for me. I suppose watching the doughboy double then triple in size is like watching a child grow. I mean, afterall, are there nof millions of tiny little yeast children growing up, reproducing and populating the entire world of their existence?

So I guess making bread reminds me a little bit of raising children, which makes me feel rather accomplished, like I’ve made a difference of some sort; like adding a bit of comfort to the home on a gloomy wet day like this.

“Acorns were good until bread was found. “

-Francis Bacon

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Ingredients for my favourite sandwich bread:

1/3 cup brown sugar

2 cups warm water

2 tbsp active dry yeast

2 cups whole wheat flour

3~4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 cup skim milk powder

2 tsp fine sea salt

1/3 cup canola or grape seed oil

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp milk

To make the bread, combine the brown sugar with the warm water in the bowl of your stand mixer. Sprinkle on the yeast and let it stand for 5 minutes, or until it foams and puffs up.

Add the whole wheat flour, 3 cups of the all purpose flour, milk powder, and salt to the yeast mixture. Using the dough hook, knead the dough on low speed (2~4) until all ingredients are thoroughly combined.

Gradually knead in the oil. Add the remaining flour, 1/3 cup at a time, until the dough starts to clean the sides of the bowl – you may not need to use all of the flour. When I made mine, I only needed 3 2/3 cups of the all purpose, but the key is to gradually add so you get to the point where you’ve added just enough flour, otherwise your dough may get too dry.

Grease a bucket with a lid – a 4 litre ice cream bucket is perfect – with a tablespoon of oil. Dump the kneaded dough into the bucket and cover with the lid. Put the bucket in a warm, dark place and let it rise for an hour. Once it’s at least doubled in size, punch it down and fold the edges into the center. Put the lid back on and let it rise again for another hour.

Turn the soft, elastic dough onto a smooth clean working surface and divide into two equal portions. Using a rolling pin, roll each half into a rectangle, about 9 x 14 inches. Starting at the short end, roll up the dough snugly to form a log. Place each log in a greased loaf pan with the seam side down. Cover and let rise for 1 more hour.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 385 degrees F. In a small bowl, beat together the egg yolk with the milk lightly. Once the dough has finished its hour of rising, brush the top with the egg yolk wash.

Bake for 15 minutes in the preheated oven. Then, lower the temperature to 350 degrees F and continue baking for 20 to 30 minutes. Unlike batter breads and cakes, you don’t need to stick a skewer in there to test if it’s done. Simply tap the top gently – if it sounds hollow, then it’s done.

Cool completely in the pan before running a knife along the sides of the pan and inverting to release the loaf.

The possibilities are now endless.

Enjoy!

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