I probably shouldn’t admit how quickly this apartment goes through loaves of bread — we eat the stuff as fast as I or B. can bake it. (Our record is three loaves of pretzel bread, which is B.’s specialty, demolished in less than twelve hours. Almost no loaf makes it more than 24 hours, or 36 at the outside, around here.) So when I was on vacation a while ago, and had some spare time, I made some extra batches of a basic white loaf and stuck most of the dough in the freezer. It’s all gone now, and I’m going to settle down to some serious kneading and shaping again so I can stick to the habit of thawing the dough in the fridge overnight and baking it while I’m drinking my morning tea and catching up on RSS feeds. (You do know you can get A Very Uncommon Cook delivered to your virtual doorstep in a feed, right? I am just looking out for your welfare, folks!)
(This recipe, I should note, is adapted from King Arthur Flour.)
1 ½ cups warm milk
1 heaping tablespoon honey
2 ¼ teaspoons yeast
1 ¾ teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons soft butter
around 4 cups all-purpose flour
2 mixing bowls
1 nine-inch loaf pan
Pour the warm (not scalded! just warm) milk into a large mixing bowl. Add the honey and yeast, and stir to dissolve. Let rest two to five minutes. Add salt and butter, and stir to distribute. Add three cups of flour and mix. Add the last cup-or-so of flour gradually, kneading in between additions, until you have a smooth, elastic ball of dough.
Oil or butter another large mixing bowl and put the ball of dough in. Roll the dough around so the exterior is a little greasy. Cover with a hand towel or plastic wrap (loosely, in the latter case; don’t make it entirely airtight). Leave in a warm still place (I like the top of the refrigerator) for up to an hour and a half.
Grease a nine-inch loaf pan. When the dough is puffy, deflate it gently. There’s no need to slam your fist into it like it’s done you personal injury; if you want that, I suggest a boxing gym. Shape it into a log that will fit in the pan. Cover the pan with the towel or plastic wrap, and leave it in the warm still place for another hour or so. After an hour, turn the oven to 350°; when it’s preheated, remove the towel or plastic wrap and put the bread in.
Bake for twenty minutes, and then drape some aluminium foil over the top. Bake another ten to fifteen minutes, or until golden brown, and cool on a rack.