Saturday, February 12, 2011

Basil Bread!

Today I was feeling domestic. And hungry. So I tied on my best 50's housewife apron and baked some bread! A lot of people have never tried to make bread, because it's so much easier to just buy it. But trust me, homemade bread will make your life worth living again. You'll take a bite, look out the window and be dazzled by the sunshine, and a bluebird will sing you the Hall & Oates song of your choice.

Point being, you oughta try it. Because I'm nice (and have too much time on my hands) I made a step-by-step guide with pit-churs and everything to walk you through it. Deliciousness awaits after the jump!

First, make sure you have all the ingredients. You're gonna need a decent amount of flour, a packet of active dry yeast, some milk (or buttermilk, if that's the kind of thing that tickles your fancy), sugar, butter, and a bit of salt. 

Now let's get down to business. Throw 1¼ cups flour and HALF the packet of yeast in a big bowl. 

I'm only using half because the recipe I adapted for this uses a whole packet, and it makes two loaves of bread. It's just me and Stephen in this apartment, we'd never eat two loaves of bread before they went bad. 

But if you have more people around to feed, or you want a spare loaf of bread to play Aladdin with, go ahead and use the whole packet and just double the rest of the measurements.

Stir that up, then pour 1 cup and 2 tablespoons of milk in a saucepan. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 ½ teaspoons of butter, and ¾ teaspoon salt.

You want to heat this up on low heat just until it's warm, not hot. Leave it on there until the butter's just about melted. This looks about right:

Check it out, I caught the moon in my saucepan! 

Next, pour your moon into the flour/yeast combo, and mix it for 30 seconds on low. Make sure you Scrape the sides. Then turn the mixer up to high and beat for 3 minutes. Use those three minutes to fantasize about having a Kitchenaid stand mixer. Or, if you already have one, use your three minutes to feel bad for me and my eight dollar hand mixer. 

This is the part where you get to be creative and add whatever spices you want. First I added some parsley. I like parsley, but it isn't really my thing, so I didn't add that much.

Basil, on the other hand. Basil is my thing. So I added a lot. 

Mix it all up, then add 1 ½ cups of flour, a little at a time, and stir it all up. I added all my flour at once, because I have no patience. This makes it really hard to mix. Don't be like me. 

Once you've got everything combined and lookin' a little more like dough ought to look, the right thing to do is turn it out on a lightly floured surface and knead it. I usually just knead it right in the bowl, because I'm lazy and don't want to deal with un-lightly-flouring my kitchen surfaces. You should end up with something like this.

Grab another bowl and give it a quick spritz with some non-stick cooking spray. Then take your dough ball and plop it in the greased bowl. Flip it over so both sides are greased. Now cover it with a towel and let it rise in a "warm, draft-free place." My apartment was built in 1921, so the idea of finding a draft-free place is laughable. I just put it in the oven (it's off, of course) with a bowl of warm water, like it's the Great Depression or something. 

Leave the bread in whatever "warm, draft-free place" you've eked out until it's doubled in size, which usually takes about an hour. I used this time to play Left 4 Dead.

All done? Welcome back.

This next part was probably discovered by a domestic abuser.

Ooh, hello there beautifully risen bread! Lookin' good!

BAM! Punch it down! Teach it a lesson! How dare it rise!

...Listen, I didn't invent the process, I'm just passing along information, here.

Anyway, next you're gonna flip it over and cover it back up to sit and think about what it's done for 10 minutes. In the meantime, grease whatever pan you're gonna cook this baby up in. I'm using this one:

After it's had ten minutes, shape the dough into roughly a bread-loaf kinda shape, and drop it in your bread pan. You'd think this was the part where you get to cook it, but no. You'd be wrong. You're gonna cover it up AGAIN (tired of tucking your bread dough into bed yet?) and let it rise again for one last half hour. 

I used this time to play Bejeweled. I'm great at time-management. 

Then, finally, it's time for baking! Pop it in a 375 degree oven for about 25 minutes. 

Then take it out aaand.....


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