Julia Child’s White Bread

Cooked up on September 23, 2011

Filed under: baking, family, frugal, pantry, vegetarian

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I love spending Saturday mornings in the kitchen with a big cup of coffee and a good baking project. A baking project that I can have for breakfast as soon as it’s done baking, or share with my hubby later in the day and throughout the week. Here’s a recipe that’s one of my favorites: Julia Child’s white bread.

It’s tough to find the perfect bread recipe, but I believe this is it. Yes, it’s white bread, but making bread at home erases most of the concerns I have about buying white bread at the store. And besides, I am of the opinion that if you are baking a yeast bread, there are three big things to get right, and the rest will be just fine:

Texture. The best bread dough looks and feels right. It’s not too sticky and it’s not too dry. It’s easy to manipulate. It is smooth and doesn’t split into pieces. These are all things you can tell by looking at your dough and touching it. If it’s too dry, add water. If it’s too wet, add flour. Do either of these things in small amounts, like a tablespoon at a time, and you’ll be just fine.

Temperature. A tiny thermometer costs approximately $2 at your local grocery store, and it is the key to the yeast waking up, metabolizing and making your bread beautiful. Take the time and get your temperature exactly right. It will show when your bread rises. Which brings me to…

Rise time. Don’t fudge on this. Your yeast needs time to eat and make bubbles. It defines the entire structure of bread. Unfortunately this means that making your own bread at home is a lengthy process, but it’s totally worth it.

OK, ready? Here’s what you need for one loaf in a standard loaf pan:

  • 1 1/4 cupswater (105-115 F)
  • 1/2 tablespoonactive dry yeast
  • 1/2 tablespoonsugar
  • 3 1/2 cupsall-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tablespoonsalt
  • 1/4 cupunsalted butter, softened

To start, pour the yeast in your bowl with 1/2 cup of the warm water. Make sure the temperature is correct first! Yeast is alive and if the water is too hot, they will fry 🙁

Let it sit about five minutes – but more important than the amount of time sitting is that it looks like this:

Then you know you’re ready to go. Mix together half of the flour, the rest of the water, and the yeast mixture. If you have a stand mixer, use the dough hook.  Then add the rest of the flour and the butter, until the dough has a smooth consistency. When you add the butter, it will come apart initially, but keep going – as you mix, the butter will get incorporated and come back together.

Cover the top of the bowl completely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 45 minutes. In the meantime, butter your loaf pan.

After the 45 minutes have passed, punch down the dough so it loses the air inside. Then shape into a log form and place inside your loaf pan. Cover again with the plastic wrap and let rise for another 45 minutes, ideally in a warm place that will be about 80 degrees. Places I’ve tried in the past include next to the heater (but not too close!), on the dryer and in our bedroom in the summer, where the temperature is warmer than the rest of the house because it’s the top floor.

After the second proofing it will look like this:

Ladies and gentlemen, yeast. How awesome is that stuff?

Bake for 35-45 minutes until the crust is the color of honey. Let it cool completely before you slice it up – this is really important for the bread’s structural integrity.

Try it with some butter and honey.

 

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