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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Rustic White Bread

It was abnormally cold in NOVA last week. Schools were closed on Friday because it was too cold for kids to wait for the bus. For some reason, cold weather always gets me in the mood for a good grilled cheese. In order to make a good grilled cheese, you need good bread. The best bread is homemade bread. My mom used to make homemade sandwich bread when I was growing up. Until we were old enough to appreciate it, my siblings and I would complain because we wanted Wonder Bread just like the other kids. To make matters worse, the slices of bread were too big and my mom would have to cut our sandwiches in half and pack each half in it's own sandwich bag so it looked like we were eating two sandwiches - it was so embarrassing. But now I long for the homemade bread. The way it made her house smell, the warm slices with peanut butter when it was fresh from the oven, and the bologna and cheese sandwiches (even if it comes in 2 bags).

Fit Girl Fare Rustic White Bread

The recipe itself is not complicated, but there is some time involved because it has to rise twice before you can bake it. It's important to let it rise fully both times because otherwise the bread will be super dense. I've found that the best way to encourage a good rise is to preheat my oven to 350 degrees for a minute or two to get warm and then put the bowl of dough into the oven. Don't let the oven actually get all the way up to 350 before you turn it off, just turn it on for a couple of minutes then turn it off so that when you put the bread in there it is nice and warm but not hot.

The loaf is on the smaller side, but it's perfect for two people and makes for great grilled cheese!

Rustic White Bread
Time: 2 hours 20 minutes total, including 1.5 hours of rising time
1 cup warm water, about 105 degrees, not hotter than 110 degrees
2 teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 cups flour
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 teaspoon of salt

In a large mixing bowl mix water, yeast, and sugar. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to proof the yeast. It should be foamy on the top when it is ready to use. Add in the rest of the ingredients. If you are using an electric stand mixer, use the dough hook and set to low speed for about 10 minutes until the dough is soft but not sticky. If you don't have an electric stand mixer, mix with a wooden spoon until combined, pour out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough comes together and is soft but not sticky. Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a dish towel, and leave some place warm to rise for an hour. It should double in size. After it has risen, punch it down and turn it out onto a large surface. Shape into a round loaf that is smooth on the top. Let it rise again, this time for 30-45 minutes. Preheat the over to 375 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the over to preheat. If you don't have a pizza stone, you can use a regular baking sheet. Bake the bread for 35 minutes until it's starting to turn brown on the outside. Take it out of the oven and put on a wire cooling rack. Rub the top of loaf with some butter. Let it cool before slicing - if you have enough self control!

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