Simple Bread - maybe too simple?
I have always been the cake, cookie and quickbread baker, while my Dear Wife (DW) has always been the bread baker. She actually sold her bread through a Farmer's Market in Iowa many moons ago. The old paradigm in our house when people asked who baked what was pretty simple. It came down to leavening. If it was chemical (or absent), it was me. If it was biological, it was DW.
I tried to understand what she was ding, but she would always use terms like "as much as it needs" and "you'll know when there's enough". For a cookie baker, that's just anathema, bordering on heresey. 10 grams of flour difference and you have very different cookies. I couldn't wrap my head around the imprecision (not inaccuracy) of it all.
Finally, I deided that it was time to break the code on this bread / yeast thing. There were going to be rules here, though.
- It has to taste great
- It has to be consistent
- It has to be easy to do
- It has to be easy to clean up after.
- It has to be able to be done one loaf at a time because there is only two of us in the house,
DW makes several hand-kneaded loaves at a time and it completely takes over the kitchen for hours and the sale of the cleanup is fairly large. Because of this, she wasn't making bread that often. I was looking for a day to day bread, and she likes to bake wonderful project breads. If I could take care of the D2D bread, she gets to have teh fun of doing what she likes when she likes whithout having to worry about not having fresh bread around.
I started out trying to duplicate DW's procedure on a smaller scale and using a stand mixer. I wanted a softer bread because DW's bread was just a touch too artisan for me. Once I replicated her procedures, I started to adjust for the changes, such as mixing vs kneading. In DW's hand procedure, this was a big differene because of turning out the dough onto a board on a special height counter. For me, the difference is changing the speed on the mixer.
(She is 5' 3" and a standard cabinet / counter is too high for her kneading. When we redid the kithen, we had a custom baking cabinet put in that is "Anne height" - I have no idea how high it is, just that it fits her kneading height. We had the cabinet-ordering-person meaure the height from the floor to the bottom of her palm with her hand outstretched and her arm down at her side.)
What I am looking for is comments about whether I went too far in simplifying the procedure. So far, so good, though.
Sorry about the charts. That's how it got converted from Word and I am new to this blog. Here is a link to a PDF file. http://goo.gl/Ut1pm 
Basic Bread Using All Purpose Flour
All Purpose UBW Flour
~ 1 lb
Active Dry yeast
Equipment and Supplies
Stand mixer, bowl, and dough hook
Digital kitchen scale
2 cup microwave-safe measuring cup
Clean Tea Towel
Baker’s Joy spray
Bread pan (medium or large)
Small microwave-safe cup for melting butter
General Notes and Description
This is a very straightforward white bread. The dough will be wet. That’s OK. Let the dough be what the dough will be. This procedure is designed for great taste, consistent results, easy preparation and even easier cleanup.
- All ingredients, including water, were weighed using grams in developing procedure. All volume measurements are converted (and then approximated) from weight.
- 135 g per cup of AP flour.
- California coastal climate – 55 to 75 degrees F, 20% to 50% relative humidity, sea level.
- National brand unbleached white (UBW) All Purpose flour at 11 - 12% protein.
- Very hard water area, requiring bottled water.
- KitchenAid Artisan (325 watt, 5 qt, 4.7 L) mixer used for compiling procedure data.
- Baker’s Secret medium bread pan used as reference.
- Auto-convection baking – Set at 350 degrees, converts down 25 degrees to account for convection heating element.
- If not using convection, use standard bake at 350 degrees and bake to 185 degrees F internal temperature, noting times for future reference.
- If not using convection and If oven is known for uneven heating, spin pan around 180 degrees right before placing probe thermometer at the 25 minute mark.
- Bread flour cab be substituted 1:1 by weight for AP flour. It will change the texture a bit.
- Salt amount is a minimum; add up to 2 to 3 grams per personal taste.
Dry Prep Step time: 2 minutes Cumulative time: 2 minutes
- Weigh flour into mixer bowl.
- Add salt and yeast. Volume measures can be used, but weight is preferred.
- Place bowl on mixer with dough hook attached.
Wet Prep Step time: 2 minutes Cumulative time: 4 minutes
- Pour water into 2 cup measure.
- Heat carefully to 105 to 115 degrees F in microwave. Use a thermometer. No guessing
Mix Step time: 2 minutes Cumulative time: 6 minutes
- Mix the dry ingredients for 30 seconds on medium speed.
- With mixer still on medium speed, slowly add the water over 30 seconds to one minute.
- With mixer still on medium speed, add honey over 15 seconds. I squeeze out of the bottle without measuring – I guess at this. Less work and cleanup. This is the only place in the procedure I do this.
Knead Step time: 15 minutes Cumulative time: 21 minutes
- Lower mixer speed to low (2 or 3) and let it run for 15 minutes total.
- To move some of the ingredients off the bottom of the bowl, increase to medium speed (4 or 5) every 5 minutes for 30 seconds each time.
- Turn off mixer and recover any dough from dough hook.
Rise Step time: 2 hours, 1 minute Cumulative time: 2 hours, 22 minutes
- Remove bowl from mixer and place on a not-cool counter.
- Cover bowl with clean tea towel.
- Let rise for 2 hours. It should look like the Son of Blob.
Bake Prep and Second Rise
Step time: 23 minutes Cumulative time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
- At the two hour mark of the rise, preheat oven to Auto-Convection Bake 350 degrees. See Other Assumptions note on this.
- Spray Bread Pan with Baker’s Joy spray.
- Lightly hand-knead the Blob in the bowl to release gas pockets for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Pour the dough into the prepared Bread Pan.
- Let rise again in uncovered Bread Pan for 20 minutes.
- While rising, heat butter using microwave in microwave-safe cup and let cool to >=100 F.
- At the end of the rise, pour cooled melted butter over top of loaf and spread evenly. Your clean fingers are good tools for this.
Bake Step time: ~40 minutes Cumulative time:~3 hours, 30 minutes
- Auto-Convection bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes with the pan dead center in the oven.
- Place probe thermometer center mass in loaf set to 185 degrees F.
- Auto-Convection bake for an additional 10 to 15 minutes, until internal temp hits 185 F. Temperature wins over time.
Cool Step time: 25 minutes Cumulative time:~4 hours
- Remove bread pan from oven.
- Let cool for at least 5 minutes in pan.
- Turn out bread onto cooling rack or bread board or wherever.
- Cover with tea towel after 20 minutes.
- It can take up to 2 hours before the bread is cool enough (>= 100 degrees F) to place in plastic bread bag for storage or freezing.
These loaves are residual heat sinks. If you don’t believe me, leave the probe thermometer in until it completely cools to 100 degrees F.