For the past couple of days, it’s been snowing. Now, I have been living in Southern Alberta since I was six, which, coincidentally, is most of my life. I love Alberta. The Alberta beef, the prairies, the small towns and big cities, the Alberta beef, the people, the beautiful blue skies, the bright yellow canola fields in the summer, the Alberta beef… wait, where was I? In case you can’t tell, I am a die-hard Alberta beef fan. However, whenever winter hits, I find myself longing for Vancouver Island. I only had a few winters there, but they were definitely milder ones than we experience in Southern Alberta. The winters on the island are more wet and less cold. That’s why I never mind when it’s raining. It always seemed to be raining on the island.
However, I digress. As soon as the first snowfall – correction, the first serious snowfall hits, all I want to do is curl up on the couch with a blanket, a cup of tea, and either a good book or a good movie. Lately, whenever I get cold, all I want to do is bake. There’s nothing that warms me up more than a warm and cozy kitchen with the smell of fresh baked bread.
I do have a breadmaker, courtesy of Paul, but every once in a while I feel the need to, well… knead! I got this recipe from the ever-fabulous Annie’s Eats, and since she has dubbed it “The Best White Bread”, I felt it was time to give it a go. This bread was extremely good. I ate this bread as a toasted bacon sandwich, and it was so, so good. If you need a new recipe for white bread, try this one out.
Yield: 2 9-inch loaves
4½ tsp. instant (rapid rise) yeast
¾ c. plus 2 2/3 c. warm water, divided (105-115°F)
¼ c. sugar
1 tbsp. salt
3 tbsp. butter, at room temperature
9-10 c. flour
3-4 tbsp. butter, melted for brushing
To make the dough, dissolve the yeast in ¾c. of warm water in the bowl of a mixer with the dough hook attachment. Stir in the sugar, salt, remaining water, butter, and 5 cups of flour. Mix on low speed until the dough begins to come together. Gradually add in the remaining 4-5 cups of flour, about 1 cup at a time, more gradually with the last cup, until the dough is smooth and slightly tacky, but not sticky. Continue to knead about 6-8 minutes, until a smooth ball of dough has formed.
As a side note, it only took me 9 cups of flour, not 10. The dough started to engulf my dough hook, so I actually had to finish mixing the dough by turning it out onto a large wooden cutting board and kneading it the rest of the way until it was done.
Transfer the dough to a large, lightly greased bowl and turn once to coat. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm place until the dough has nearly doubled in bulk, about 60-90 minutes. When my house is as cold as it is in winter, I will preheat the oven to 200° F, then as soon as the oven is heated, turn the oven off again and place the dough in the warm oven to rise.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and gently punch down to deflate the dough. Divide into two equal portions. Press one portion of dough into a rectangle, about 9 x 15 inches. Starting on a short end, roll the dough up tightly into a log and pinch the seam shut. Roll the ends under the loaf and transfer to a greased loaf pan. Press down gently so the dough reaches the sides of the pan. Repeat with the second portion of dough. Cover the pans loosely with a clean kitchen towel and let rise once more until nearly doubles, about 30-45 minutes.
Place an oven rack in the lowest position and preheat the oven to 400°F. Just before baking, lightly brush the tops of the loaves with some of the melted butter. Bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the pans 180° and continue baking until a thermometer reads 190°F in the center of the loaf, about 15-18 minutes more. If the tops of the loaves are browning too quickly, cover the tops loosely with foil to prevent burning. Transfer the pans to wire racks to cool briefly, then turn the loaves out onto the racks after 10-15 minutes. If desired, brush lightly with additional melted butter. Let cool completely.