The other day I was chatting on facebook with my friends and fellow bloggers Anita and Christine (Go visit them btw; they are both far more awesome bloggers than I) with the conversation being about food of course. Part of the subject matter was the fear people have of working with yeast. It’s a fear, that while I can understand it (yeast can be dead and you end up with a hockey puck… water too hot, you end up with a hockey puck, water too cold… hockey puck yada yada yada) I don’t have that fear. I think I was lucky. I started working with yeast back when I was a very young cook, about 20ish or so. In my naivete I didn’t realize I had anything to be scared of. There was no internet back then thus no horror stories, plus I was a young wife living in Germany and had no one to compare notes with and cooked on my own. So I made things with yeast. Did I start with easy white bread? Oh heck no. Again, no fear and lots of beginners luck. The first things I made were home made croissants and sticky buns, both of which can be temperamental and really AREN’T for beginners but I didn’t know that. They turned out fine so thus began my relationship with yeast. We’ve gotten along fine through the years. There have been some arguments… yeast always won. But I’ve learned that if I treat it gently and keep it comfy and cozy temp wise, all is good.
But I’ve come to realize that there are a LOT of people who are leery of working with yeast. So here is Grandma Jan to explain how downright easy it is! Seriously… it’s easy. If you can cook, you can make a yeast dough. If you have ANY experiencing baking, you can make a yeast dough. So, before I get to the recipe, I’ll just give a few small tips.
1) Watch your water temp. Overly hot water/liquid kills your yeast in a heartbeat and water/liquid that is too cold will still eventually give you a risen dough, but it will take a LOT longer and if you’re new, you may wonder why your dough isn’t rising and give up thinking you’ve screwed up.
2) Use the new Platinum yeast from Red Star. It has added dough conditioners and it makes a difference in the final product. If you can’t find it though, use regular yeast…. it’s still fine
3) Knead knead knead. Under kneading seems to be the biggest mistake people make. If doing it in a stand mixer, follow the directions in the recipe. If kneading by hand, do the same. Kneading develops the gluten in the dough which gives you the texture you want. If the recipe says to knead for ten minutes, set a timer and knead for ten minutes. Also, the first few times you make bread, please, knead by hand. You need to develop a feel for what well kneaded bread dough should feel like. You’re looking for firm springy smooth rather elastic dough most of the time (unless the recipe says otherwise) And it’s a great arm workout hehe.
4) have your ingredients ready. Nine times out of ten, you will mix your yeast with water and let it proof while you do other things. But it’s usually for just a few minutes and then you continue on. So if there is another liquid that must be heated and cooled, have that already done so that your yeast isn’t turning into a the blob that ate Manhattan while you wait for something to cool. And have your ingredients at room temp. You should always do that ANYWAY when baking but it matters more with a bread dough. This particular recipe calls for two egg yolks and you really don’t want to take ice cold eggs and mix them with your yeast as that throw off the temp. Bottom line? It’s not hard… you just need to remember some little things.
Ok, on to the recipe. This one is from Ina Garten and it’s awesome. The dough is wonderful! If you’ve made bread before, you know what I mean. This is so smooth, so elastic and so easy to work with. Not sticky at all but not too floury. It’s a great one for the beginner and quick for the experienced. The bread is soft with a good chew and a wonderful smell!
Classic Honey White Bread
- 1/2 cup warm water (about 110 degrees F; no more than 117 or so)
- 2 packages dry yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 1/2 cups milk, heated and cooled to 110 to 115 degrees
- 6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled (plus more for the top of the finished loaves if desired)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
- 2 extra large egg yolks (I only had large eggs and 2 of those yolks worked fine)
- 5 to 6 cups all purpose flour (I used bread flour and ended up needing 5 and 1/3 cups. You may need a bit more or less depending on the temp in your house, humidity, moistness level of the flour, etc. You want to end up with a firm not sticky but not rock hard dough)
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- Place the water in a measuring cup. Add the yeast and the sugar; stir and allow it to sit for about five minutes.
- Add the milk, honey, butter and yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix on medium speed until blended. Add the egg yolks, 3 cups of the flour and the salt.mix on low speed for five minutes.
- Keep the mixer on low and add 2 more cups of flour. Turn the mixer off and scrape the sides of the bowl. Raise the speed to medium and slowly add just enough more flour so that the dough comes away from the bowl and isn’t sticking to the sides. If you don’t have a stand mixer, the best way to do the mixing is with a heavy wooden spoon.
- Knead on medium speed for eight minutes. If hand kneading, dump the dough out onto a LIGHTLY floured board or counter and knead for eight minutes, until the dough is smooth, springy feeling and elastic.
- If doing in the mixer, when time is up, dump your dough out and knead for a minute or two. Grease a large bowl with butter. Put the dough in it, smushing it around to butter the bottom, then turn it over so that the bottom is now on top. Cover the bowl with a very slightly damp towel and put in a warm place to rise. While the bread is kneading, I turn the oven on to it’s lowest setting, let it get there then turn the oven off and crack the door a tiny bit. By the time the kneading is done, It should be about 85 degrees or so in the oven which is a perfect temp to rise bread dough at.
- Let the dough rise until it has pretty much doubled in bulk.
- Punch the dough down, turn it out and cut it in half. Shape each half into a loaf and put into two buttered loaf pans.
- Put back in the warm oven (or other warm place) and let rise again, also until doubled. It should be nicely risen to about an inch or so above the top of the loaf pan.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake the loaves for about 40 to 45 minutes or until it is a light golden brown and has a rather hollow sound when tapped on top.
- Let sit in the pans on a wire rack for two to three minutes, then carefully turn out of the pan onto the rack to finish cooling.
- Take a loaf of bread, some butter and a jar of jam into the closet, hide from the kids and eat bread and read a trashy novel. I won’t tell.