I am definitely going to try my hand at different bread variations in the next few weeks. I think the secret to a good loaf is using bread flour. I tried making bread a few years ago with all-purpose flour and it was very disappointing. The extra gluten and protein in the bread flour gave the loaf the chewy bread texture I like so much. And fresh bread straight from the oven - how can you go wrong?
Adapted from Joy of Cooking
Yield: 1 loaf
1 cup warm water (115F to 125F)
1 package (2 1/4 tsp) quick-rising active dry yeast
1 tbsp sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp melted butter
2 3/4 cup bread flour
- Pour the water into a large mixing bowl.
- Sprinkle the yeast into the water. Let stand for a minute. Yeast should froth a little.
- Add the sugar, salt, and melted butter.
- Add 2 cups of the bread flour. Stir gently.
- Begin kneading the dough in the bowl. Gradually add in 1/4 cup at a time of the remaining bread flour. The dough should be moist but not sticky.
- Knead for about 10 minutes by hand on a floured surface until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Transfer the dough to an oiled bowl and turn it over once to coat with oil.
- Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place (75F to 80F) until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. The dough should not spring back when pressed.
- Grease an 8.5 x 4.5 inch (6 cup) loaf pan.
- Punch the dough down and knead slightly.
- Shape the dough into a rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick.
- Fold the long sides of the dough into the middle, overlapping slightly. Press the seam to seal.
- Transfer the dough, seam side down, to the pan.
- Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. The dough should rise about 1 inch above the top of the pan.
- Preheat the oven to 450F.
- Bake the loaf for 10 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to 350F and bake for another 30 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped.
- Let cool slightly, then remove loaf from pan to a rack to cool completely.