Kneading it Out

I find doing something with my hands, whether it be painting, sewing, crocheting or baking to be incredibly therapeutic.  There is just something about that connection with the hands and head that gives a sense of accomplishment that I didn’t have before.

Making something from scratch like bread requires some work, and it is work I gladly undertake.  I love seeing the yeast bloom and mixing all the ingredients together, but my favorite part of the process is, surprisingly, kneading the dough.  I take out all my feelings on the dough–anger, anxiety, and stress.  I love that about kneading bread–kneading out my troubles and frustrations.

But the reward goes beyond getting out some undesirable feelings.  It becomes a declaration of love from me to my husband.  While he’s been working hard at a forty hour a week job, I’ve been busy in the kitchen making one of his favorite foods–bread.  The smell fills the whole house and when he arrives home, the first thing I see is a smile, and then the words come, “That smells really good!”  And it warms my heart, knowing I’ve given him this little gift.

You didn’t think I was going to leave you without this incredible recipe, did you? Well, I’m not!  This bread is the best sandwich bread I’ve ever had.  It has a nice crust, and spongy center.  The first is for normal altitudes and the second has been adjusted for high altitudes.

Classic Sandwich Bread (for normal altitudes)

In a large bowl combine:

6 cups all-purpose flour (I use 3 cups all-purpose flour and 3 cups whole wheat flour)

4 tablespoons sugar (I use Rapadura)

In a large measuring cup combine:

1 cup cold milk

1 to 1 1/3 cup hot water, enough to make a soft, smooth dough

1/2 cup melted butter or vegetable oil (I use safflower oil)

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

In a small bowl combine:

4 tsp. active dry yeast dissolved in 1/4 cup warm water  (between 110-115ºF)

1/2 tsp. sugar

Mixing: Add all liquids and bloomed yeast to large bowl containing flour and sugar.  Stir till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, dust your hands, and knead for 6 to 8 minutes, or until it begins to become smooth and supple. (You may also knead this dough in an electric mixer or food processor, or in a bread machine set to the dough or manual cycle). Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise till puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 60 minutes, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

Shaping: Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into an 8-inch log. Place the log in a lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan, cover the pan loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 60 minutes, until it’s domed about 1 inch above the edge of the pan. A finger pressed into the dough should leave a mark that rebounds slowly.

Baking: Bake the bread in a preheated 350°F oven for about 30-35 minutes, until it’s light golden brown. Test it for doneness by removing it from the pan and thumping it on the bottom (it should sound hollow), or by measuring its interior temperature with an instant-read thermometer (it should register 190°F at the center of the loaf). Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a wire rack before slicing. Store the bread in a plastic bag at room temperature. Yield: 2 loaves.

Classic Sandwich Bread (for high altitudes)

In a large bowl combine:

6 cups all-purpose flour (I use 3 cups all-purpose flour and 3 cups whole wheat flour)

3 tablespoons sugar (I use Rapadura)

In a large measuring cup combine:

1 cup cold milk

1 1/4 cups hot water, enough to make a soft, smooth dough

1/2 cup melted butter or vegetable oil (I use safflower oil)

2 1/2 teaspoons salt

In a small bowl combine:

4 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water  (between 110-115ºF)

1/2 tsp. sugar

Mixing: Add all liquids and bloomed yeast to large bowl containing flour and sugar.  Stir till the dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface, dust your hands, and knead for 6 to 8 minutes, adding flour as needed to keep dough from sticking, until it begins to become smooth and supple. (You may also knead this dough in an electric mixer or food processor, or in a bread machine set to the dough or manual cycle). Transfer the dough to a lightly greased bowl, cover the bowl, and allow the dough to rise till puffy though not necessarily doubled in bulk, about 60 minutes, depending on the warmth of your kitchen.

Shaping: Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled work surface, and shape it into two 8-inch logs. Place the logs in two lightly greased 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans, cover the pans loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap, and allow the bread to rise for about 60 minutes, until it’s domed about 1 inch above the edge of the pan. A finger pressed into the dough should leave a mark that rebounds slowly.

Baking: Bake the bread in a preheated 375°F oven for about 30-35 minutes, until it’s light golden brown. Test it for doneness by removing it from the pan and thumping it on the bottom (it should sound hollow), or by measuring its interior temperature with an instant-read thermometer (it should register 190°F at the center of the loaf). Remove the bread from the oven, and cool it on a wire rack before slicing. Store the bread in a plastic bag at room temperature. Yields: 2 loaves.

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