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Homemade Bread – There’s Nothin’ Better!

 

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It’s true, isn’t it? Nothing smells better than fresh baked bread wafting from the oven, and that first taste of soft warm bread and hard crust is like heaven. After watching Alton Brown make some bread on Good Eats the other night, I have been craving a warm, crusty loaf of homemade bread. And so today was bread baking day. The recipe that I used for this bread makes two loaves, which was just perfect. I made one regular, plain white loaf. The other I transformed into a knock-off of my grandma’s famous Bacon Cheese Bread. Usually around different holidays she will make bread with crumbled bacon and Romano or Parmesan cheese in it. It’s one of my favorite things that she makes and so I decided to make my own.

In that Good Eats episode Alton gave a great tip for getting dough to rise – put the dough in the oven (not turned on) and on the rack beneath it place a pan that has just been filled with piping hot water. With the oven door closed the steam from the water will create the humidity needed for a good dough rise. It worked wonderfully – my dough rose perfectly!

I also did a good bit of research on the best way to store homemade bread, and what I found out was that it’s pretty near impossible to keep fresh homemade bread from going stale or moldy in a few days because it does not contain any preservatives. The vast majority of the advice I found suggested slicing the bread and then, holding the loaf together as one, wrap the bread in a cling wrap, and then again in foil and store in the freezer. You can easily then take out as much as you want and let it thaw. This has been found to be better than keeping out on the counter (goes moldy quickly) or in the refrigerator (it gets dried out).

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White Bread

(Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens, New Cook Book, Limited breast cancer edition; Courtesy of Amber’s Delectable Delights)

Low fat
Prep: 30 minutes
Rise: 1 1/4 hours (divided)
Bake: 40 minutes
Makes: 2 loaves

Ingredients:
5 3/4 to 6 1/4 cups all-purpose flour (I used less than the minimum amount – definitely go by feel)
1 package active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups milk or buttermilk (I used whole milk)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter, margarine or shortening
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

To make the Bacon/Cheese version:
8 slices bacon, cooked crisp and drained
1/2 cup grated Romano (or Parmesan) cheese, divided
1 Tablespoon melted butter

Directions:
1) In a large mixing bowl combine 2-1/2 cups of the flour and the yeast; set aside. In a medium saucepan heat and stir milk, sugar, butter and salt just until warm (120 to 130 degrees F) and butter almost melts. Add milk mixture to flour mixture. Beat with an electric mixer on low to medium speed for 30 seconds, scraping sides of bowl constantly. Beat on high speed for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, stir in as much of the remaining flour as you can.

2) Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead in enough of the remaining to make a moderately stiff dough that is smooth and elastic (6 to 8 minutes total). Shape dough into a ball. Place in lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface of dough. Cover; let rise in a warm place until double in size (45 to 60 minutes).

3) Punch dough down. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface; divide in half. Cover; let rest 10 minutes. Meanwhile lightly grease two 8x4x2 loaf pans.

4) Shape dough halves into loaves by patting or rolling. To shape by patting, gently pat and pinch, tucking edges underneath. To shape by rolling, on a lightly floured surface roll each dough half into a 12×8 inch rectangle. Roll up each rectangle, starting from a short side. Seal seams with your fingertips.

For Bacon/Cheese Bread: After rolling out the dough, brush it with the melted butter. Sprinkle 1/4 cup Romano cheese over the dough, top with crumbled bacon, and then top with the remaining 1/4 cup Romano cheese. Roll dough up as you did with the regular loaf and proceed with the recipe. Before putting it in the oven I brushed it with a little more melted butter and sprinkled some grated Parmesan on top. I think that this version would also taste very good with fresh ground black pepper in it as well.

5) Place shaped dough halves in prepared pans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until nearly double in size (30 to 40 minutes).

6) Bake in a 375 degree oven about 40 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when lightly tapped (if necessary, cover loosely with foil the last 10 minutes of baking to prevent over browning). Immediately remove bread from pans. Cool on wire racks.

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19 Responses to “Homemade Bread – There’s Nothin’ Better!”

  1. bethany (lilcrablegs) on January 11, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Those look awesome! I love your blog =)

    Reply

  2. Michelle on January 11, 2008 at 7:30 pm

    Thanks Bethany! :)

    Reply

  3. ally on January 12, 2008 at 10:57 am

    I’m so going to make this bread, it looks awesome!

    Reply

  4. Michelle on January 12, 2008 at 11:00 am

    Thanks Ally! It was easy to throw together and definitely worth the “homemade” effort. If you make it let me know how you like it!

    Reply

  5. Your fabulous sister Lauren on January 12, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    Why those photos are near perfect if you ask me!! You are so talented…. especially with a photo editor in your back pocket :D

    Love you!! Make some more bread and bring it home to me. THANKS!

    Reply

  6. Michelle on January 12, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Thanks Laur :) If you stop by next weekend I’ll have some for you!

    Reply

  7. peabody on January 12, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    Bacon, cheese and bread? Sign me up. Yum.

    Reply

  8. Michelle on January 12, 2008 at 10:02 pm

    My thoughts exactly, Peabody :)

    Reply

  9. Kate on January 12, 2008 at 10:16 pm

    I’ve been using the Alton Brown breadmaking techniques for about a year now and they are seriously the best! Perfect bread all the time!

    Reply

  10. Michelle on January 12, 2008 at 10:17 pm

    Kate, Alton totally rocks! I love learning little things like that from him.

    Reply

  11. Amber on January 14, 2008 at 11:38 am

    They look amazing! I am glad you enjoyed the recipe and were able to take your own spin on it. The bacon and cheese loaf sounds divine.

    Reply

  12. Michelle on January 14, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Thanks Amber! I really enjoyed working with this dough – it was fantastic and the outcome was definitely the best basic white bread I’ve tried so far. This is my new standard recipe :)

    Reply

  13. MrsPresley on January 17, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    oooooh, the bacon/cheese combo sounds amazing! i will have to give that one a try…as everything is better with bacon, right? :) instead of the pan of water, you can turn the oven to 175 (or the lowest setting your oven will go to) and then turn it off…let some of the warm air escape until it feels warm when you put your hand in the oven but not too hot (about 5-10 min) and then put the dough in there and let it rise!

    Reply

  14. Michelle on January 17, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    MrsPresley – thank you for the tip on heating the oven! I did end up spilling some water on the floor in the process ;-)

    Reply

  15. Michelle on January 17, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Oh, and if you try the bread let me know how you like it!

    Reply

  16. Chris on April 28, 2008 at 8:01 pm

    I might well have to try that method for getting the dough to raise. Currently I just set my oven to the lowest setting and place the dough on top of the outside of the oven. It seems to rise nicely there. It was even better when I had a gas range and the heat from the pilot light got it nice and big! :)

    Reply

  17. Kathleen on October 4, 2008 at 11:26 pm

    Hello. . .I came across your website and enjoy reading/trying your recipes! I read on one of your posts that you are from Pittsburgh. I was just wondering what part, I too am from Pittsburgh . . . .currently living in Atlanta, GA.

    Reply

  18. Reverend Tex B. Acon on March 30, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    I found your blog on Google and read a few of your other posts. I just added you to my Bacon News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Reply

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