Thursday, March 7, 2013

The best basic bread dough

I found a "master" dough recipe that works for us in many different recipes such as loaf breads, rolls, pretzels, bagels etc.  It crusts beautifully with a simple milk wash or dipped in lye*.  The inside is soft but chewy.  And the flavor is delish.  Best of all, you can throw it in your bread machine or kitchen aid for ease.  Now my recipe calls for Lard which I pick up at the local butcher shop and is actually good for you.  The stuff in the little package isn't but will yield the same texture I described.  You can sub it out for oil or shortening but the results will not be the same.  And invest in an instant read thermometer.  It's so worth the $7 (target 2013 pricing) and invaluable in turning out a delicious bread.  In terms of flour, always use unbleached/unbromated flour to yield the best flavor and results in any type.  Bread flour is preferred but all purpose flour will suffice.

You will need

4 cups of bread flour
2 tsp of kosher or sea salt
2 tsp of sugar or honey
3 tsp of yeast (I always use a touch more but you can just put in a packet of yeast)
2 tbsp of lard
1 1/2 cup of warm water (110* on the instant read)

Place in the preferred order (This is my preferred order) and mix on lowest weight (ie one pound) and dough cycle.

In the kitchen aid, mix with a dough hook till formed into a dough ball and not sticking to the sides.  About 10 minutes on medium low.  Place in well oiled bowl and in an oven with the light on.  Till it has doubled in size.

Remove dough ball onto a lightly floured OR oil misted surface.  Roll out and then roll up into a cylinder for a long baguette style loaf.  Or folds in the sides of the cylinder and form into a loaf pan for a sandwich type bread.  Or for rolls, slice in 3 inch sections from the cylinder and shape into rolls.  In any of these, the cylinder shape will give it an excellent texture inside the bread.

Give it a final rise in it's final shape, brush with milk and bake in an 400* degrees F oven with a pan of water inside the oven to steam it a bit.  Bake until it reads 200* degrees F in the center.  This is the magical temperature to excellent bread that is neither underdone or overdone.  You can knock the bottom till hollow, look at the color of the crust whatever, but for me the instant read of 200* degrees F has yet to fail me.

*More on lye bagels and pretzels in the next blog post.