I admit it. I love white bread. Pure, fluffy, simple white bread. One of my favorite things in the whole world is a fresh, warm loaf of french bread from the super market. It is a life goal of mine to create a loaf of bread like that. I know. I hear it all the time. Why make a loaf of bread like the store? Isn't the point of homemade bread to be homemade bread? Well, I just don't like a heavy crumb. This is one of the few times I give props to the bakeries at the grocery store. Crunchy on the outside, light and pull-apart inside. Fragrant, salty, slightly sweet. Tear off a hunk and dip it in olive oil and balsamic vinegar... oops, sorry, didn't mean to drool.
Buuut, I cannot seem to figure out how to make this kindof bread myself. All my loafs come out heavy heavy heavy. All white bread recipes are pretty much the same. Flour, water, salt, yeast. Maybe some sugar, or an egg, or some powdered milk. It isn't the ingredients that are the problem. It is the rising method. You name it, I've tried that method. Raise once, bake. Raise twice, bake. Raise, kead, sit overnight in the refrigerator, bake. Raise, punch, do a little dance, sprinkle pixie dust, bake. Lather, rinse, repeat. All ineffective. They all come out heavy, sometimes even inedible.
Finally, however, I think I have found a good method. A woman I work with gave me her recipe and I recently fell in love with a fabulous bread book, The Bread Bible. Between my coworkers method, and the Bread Bible's recipe and method, well, you be the judge:
Not to be egotistical, but doesn't that bread look beautiful!? All the little tricks from the Bread Bible were great, but I greatly owe the success of this bread to my coworkers recipe. Wanna know the secret? After you knead the dough, you let it raise for 10 min, then punch it down, then repeat this 5 more times. (One hour total.) The Bread Bible doesn't exactly ever use this method, but it does talk about why this works. I had always been under the impression that punching down your dough is bad, because, well, you're letting the air out! Very scientific reasoning ;) The reason punching is good, though, is because every time your dough rises, the gluten strengthens. Gluten is a protein in flour that traps the air bubble created by yeast in the dough. So stronger glutten actually holds the air in better.
The flavor of this bread was a little dull - I'll add more salt next time. But my quest for the perfect white bread is one large step closer to the goal.
17 hours ago