I miss cooking! But I haven't really been stomaching much but bread ... so thought I'd post my favorite bread recipe that I have been eating all week. This is what got me started on homemade yeast breads -- it's really easy and is a lot quicker to prepare than most breads. It has a nice soft crumb and slices firmly for sandwiches. Buy a cheap candy thermometer for $2 to check water temperature.
7 cups white flour, plus an extra 4 T or so for luck 2 cups warm water, approx 110 degrees 2 packages yeast, or equivalent (I use 4 1/2 t Red Star) 1 t salt 3 t sugar
Spray two loaf pans with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.
Measure flour into stainless steel bowl. Mix in salt. Throw it in the oven and turn on oven to ~180 degrees.
In separate glass bowl, mix sugar and yeast. Add approx 1/2 cup of the water and let proof until foamy -- around 5 minutes.
Take bowl out of oven. Flour should be warmed. Make a well in the bowl and pour in the rest of the water and the yeast mixture. Mix with a spoon until dough starts to form. Knead for 10 minutes by hand or w/ stand mixer & dough hook. Dough should eventually be lovely and elastic-y and smooth under your fingers.
Divide dough into two equal portions. Shape into loaf and glop into loaf pans. Turn on oven to 350. Cover loaves with a clean cloth or paper towel and let rise until approx one inch above the top of the loaf pan. Usually this takes about 30-40 minutes, less if the kitchen is warm, more if the kitchen is cold.
Bake loaves at 350 for 35-40 minutes. Turn it out of the pan and pat the bottom gently with the palm of your hand -- if it sounds "hollow", it's done. (I always thought that sounded weird, but trust me, when you feel it, you'll know immediately what it means.) I like my bread a little softer, so I generally bake around 35 minutes.
Turn out of pan onto wire rack. If your wire racks are buried at the bottom of a stack of cookie sheets like mine, turn them onto plates instead. Let cool for several minutes before slicing.
Cook's notes -- I am not too sure what warming the flour does, but it turns out way better when I do. It seems to mix better and the bread is softer. Make sure you don't let it rise too long -- you'll start to get air pockets and your bread won't be nice and firm.
"It's one of the most serious things that can possibly happen to one in a battle -- to get one's head cut off." -- LC