Well, I have good news and bad news. Let’s do the bad news first, get that out of the way. Bad news: I don’t have a job. I was let go. It makes me sick. It makes me want to scream. It was the worst feeling I have ever felt in my life. Whew. Okay, bad news over. Now, the GOOD news. The good news is…I truly adore being at home all day. I have a nice clean house. I have lovely flowers and herbs growing outside. For the first time in a long time, I am stress-free. Eric is doing…exceptionally well at work and just received a promotion. I collect a portion from the state in unemployment. There’s not a lot of pressure, you know? For that, I am really and truly grateful. Blessed. Lucky. So even though getting axed from a job you love makes you feel really really crappy, there is still a silver lining.
For me, that silver lining is getting into the kitchen and tackling all the things I’ve never had the courage to tackle before. First on the list: Fresh baked bread.
I choose a basic white bread recipe to start out. I was pleased with the way it came out. My biggest concern was never having worked with a yeast dough before, I didn’t know exactly what the dough was supposed to feel like and how long to work it. Much to my surprise, after adding flour about a half cup at a time, I had a lovely dough that rose beautifully, baked up golden and tasted delicious! I admit my loaves weren’t the perfect shape, but you’ll have that. I’ll just call them…rustic loaves. Problem solved. I made a few changes while working with the dough. They are in italics.
CLASSIC WHITE BREAD (Recipe source: Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook)
5 ¾ to 6 ¼ cups all-purpose flour (I ended up with 6 cups total)
1 package dry active yeast
2 ¼ cups milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon shortening, butter, or margarine
1 teaspoon salt
Combine 2 ½ cups flour and the yeast in a large mixing bowl. Heat and stir milk, sugar, shortening, and salt until warm (120 to 130 degrees); butter will almost melt. Add to flour mixture and beat with electric mixer on low for thirty seconds (scrape bowl constantly). Beat on high three minutes more. Stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can with a spoon. (I just couldn’t do this with a wooden spoon. It was not happening. I went back to my mixer (with dough hook), beating in the extra flour a half a cup at a time on a low speed until the dough was elastic enough to knead.)
Turn dough onto lightly floured board and knead in remaining dough until smooth and elastic dough is formed (six to eight minutes). Shape into a ball and place in a greased bowl. Turn once to grease dough surface. Cover and rise in warm place until double (approximately forty-five minutes).
Punch down dough and turn again onto floured surface. Divide into two even balls. Cover and let rest for ten minutes. Shape each dough half into bread loaves by patting or rolling.
Place dough loaves into greased bread pans (8x4x2). Cover and rise in warm place until double (about thirty to forty minutes). Bake in 375 degree oven 40 minutes or until done. Loaves can be covered with aluminum foil the last ten minutes of baking to prevent over browning if necessary.
Remove immediately from pans and cool on wire racks.