Monday, January 26, 2015

White Honey Milk Bread

Have you tried stress baking?

I have to highly recommend it, especially when you're unemployed and just having one of those days where the job hunt is not working at all in your favor. In college, I used to make cupcakes around finals. Not only did mixing the batter and frosting ease my mind, but I also got to eat cupcakes.

Today, I wanted something a little more cathartic than icing miniature cakes, though. So, it was time to bake some bread. A lot of people think making bread is hard, especially when you can buy a loaf for $1.50 in the grocery store, presliced and everything.

It's not hard. It's hard work, but it's not hard. Bread is a lot of waiting. Mix. Rise. Punch. Rise. Separate. Rise. Bake. Cool. Three of those steps involve actual doing, while the others are just waiting.

But the waiting is fantastic. Your whole house starts to smell like yeast, and that is just perfect. The smell of yeasty rising bread is never a bad thing.

I have three favorite parts of making bread:

1. When you're mixing with a spoon and adding flour, the dough suddenly becomes too difficult to pull the spoon around the bowl. This is when you flour your hands and get them in there and messy. Consider it a bonus if someone else is around, and you get to wiggle your doughy fingers in their face saying, "Mmm dough!"

2. When you leave the bread to rise and don't peek for an hour, when you come back, it will have doubled in size. What once fit in the bowl is now overflowing it. So you punch it down, and you can feel the air bubble compressing and collapsing. So relaxing.

3. Obviously, eating the bread.

I based my bread on some generic recipes for honey milk bread, but found that they called for far too much flour. I used six cups measured and mixed in before flouring my hands and throwing in little bits until the texture was right. My recipe is below.

White Honey Milk Bread
Makes 2 loaves, Bake at 375 for 30 minutes


2 1/2 cups milk, warmed in the microwave for 1:30
2 packets (or 4 1/2 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup (or half a stick) unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon of salt
6 cups flour, plus up to 2 cups extra for kneading
Oil for greasing


1. Mix the yeast into the warm milk until mostly dissolved in a very large bowl. Then add the honey, butter, and salt and keep mixing until smooth
2. Add the flour, one cup at a time, incorporating it completely into the wet ingredients. When it gets difficult to mix with a spoon, flour your hands and begin mixing with those instead.
3. Continue adding flour a little at a time until the dough is stretchy but not overly sticky. Knead any excess flour from the bowl edges into the dough
4. Grease the top of the dough with a little bit of oil and cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a clean kitchen towel. Place the bowl in a warm, dry spot to rise.
5. After the dough has doubled in size (about an hour) remove the towel and plastic wrap and punch it down.
6. Break the dough into two halves, and place each in a greased loaf pan. Grease the top of each loaf, and cover with plastic wrap and a towel.
7. After the dough has double again (about half an hour) bake at 375 for 30 minutes, or until golden brown and dry on the top.
8. Remove loaves from oven and pan, cool on a cooling rack and place covered  in a cool, dry place until ready to serve.
9. Cut yourself off a slice and spread some honey butter or strawberry preserves. Mmm

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