Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Soft white bread

I never did realised how bread smells like until I baked one for myself. All those times passing along a bakery, inhaling the scent of freshly baked loaves and my brain just did not seemed to make that connection. Well, at least now I know what I'm smelling. You've probably heard how housing agents would ask owner to bake some bread whenever there is interested buyer around. It's said that the smell of fresh bread coming out of the oven gives people a homey feeling and thus would be more likely to buy the house. Frankly, the smell reminds me of not of home but of the neighbourhood bakeries I've been to as a kid. Those bakeries that sells 6 in a pack buns of different fillings (eg. kaya, red bean, the cheese & sugar bun. damn.. those were awesome). If you are from Singapore, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about.

Making bread is a totally different art form. And this being my first attempt, I must say I'm pretty proud of what came out from the oven. But I have to admit that I couldn't do it without it.. My brand new KITCHENAID MIXER!! Whoohoooo..! It's the dream machine every baker wants. It does pretty much everything for you. Saves you a ton of time and energy needed to knead the dough. The only downside of this machine is its bulkiness and you need to have space in the kitchen to store it. But hey.. Did I mention it does almost everything? It whips, it mixes, it kneads. It can even roll out pasta and grind up meat if you get the additional attachments. 
Soft Sandwich Bread and Rolls from Peter Reinhart's Artisan Breads Every Day

This type of dough is often referred to as milk dough, since the primary enrichment is milk. Whether whole, skim, buttermilk, or powdered it also contains a fair amount of sweetener and some form of fat or oil. All of these enrichments serve to keep the bread soft and slightly sweet. Because of the many enrichments, the dough has a larger percentage of yeast than lean dough so it’s especially important to put it into the refrigerator right after it’s mixed to avoid overfermentation.  If you use honey or agave nectar instead of sugar, Increase the amount of flour by 3 1/2 to 7 tablespoons ( 28.5 to 56.5 g). This dough makes wonderful sandwich bread and can also be used to make many different types of rolls, including hamburger and hot dog buns.


1 tablespoon (9 g) instant yeast
1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons (425 g) lukewarm milk (any kind; at about 35°C)
6 1/4 cups ( 794 g) unbleached bread flour
2 teaspoons (14 g) salt, or 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
5 1/2 tablespoons (78 g) sugar, or 1/4 cup honey or agave nectar
6 tablespoons (85 g) vegetable oil or melted unsalted butter
1 egg 


Day before:

Whisk the yeast into the lukewarm milk until dissolved. Set aside for 1 to 5 minutes.

Combine the flour, salt, sugar, oil, and egg in a mixing bowl, then pour in the milk mixture.

If using a mixer, use the paddle attachment and mix on the lowest speed for 2 minutes.

If mixing by hand, use a large spoon and stir for about 2 minutes. The dough should be coarse and slightly sticky.

Switch to the dough hook and mix on medium—low speed for 4 to 5 minutes, or knead by hand on a lightly floured work surface for 4 to 5 minutes, until the dough is soft, supple, and tacky but not sticky.

Whichever mixing method you use, knead the dough by hand for 1 minute, then form it into a ball.

Place the dough in a clean, lightly oiled bowl, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight or for up to 4 days. (If you plan to bake the dough in batches over different days you can portion the dough and place it into two or more oiled bowls at this stage.

On baking day:

Remove the dough from the refrigerator about 2 1/2 hours before you plan to bake and divide it in half; each piece should weigh about 709 g, which is perfect for 4 1/2 by 8-inch pans. For a 5 by 9-inch pan use 794 to 907 g of dough. 

Shape into sandwich loaves, then place them in greased loaf pans to rise.  Mist the dough with spray oil and cover the pans loosely with plastic wrap; then let the dough rise at room temperature for about 2 1/2 hours, until it domes about 1 inch above the rims of the pans.

About 15 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 177°C.

Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate the pans and bake for another 20 to 30 minutes. The bread is done when the top is golden brown, the sides are firm and brown, the loaf sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, and the internal temperature is at least 85°C in the centre.

Remove from the pans and cool on a wire rack for at least 1 hour before slicing or serving.

I dusted some flour over the dough before baking it to give it an artisan rustic look. You could create some patterns using a blade but that's a new technique which I've yet to try out. Do check out The Fresh Loaf if you are really keen on learning more about making bread. The bread is best eaten on the day it was baked but it was still good the next day after toasting it.

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