This post is all about making homemade bread, which stems directly from the fact that I truly enjoy making everything from scratch. Perhaps it is related to the fact that I often do exhibit OCD tendencies. Like we all do, I have my guilty pleasures, but I am generally very conscious about the ingredients that I choose for cooking and baking. I prefer to buy quality ingredients, and I don’t always trust the manufactured healthy choice foods. I mean, even many of the whole wheat and “heart healthy” breads at the store are loaded with preservatives. Have you noticed how they last longer on the shelf than homemade bread?
Don’t misunderstand me; I am not suggesting we all buy the fanciest and most expensive gourmet ingredients. Quality doesn’t have to be expensive.
I know that it may seem a bit pricey to get good quality produce and ingredients (I like to shop at Whole Foods Market, just saying…), but think about how many loaves of bread you can make with one bag of flour! Yeast is also inexpensive, especially if you shop at bulk foods market, you can buy ingredients in larger bags and they last a long time if stored properly. True, one should also factor in the time it takes to make foods from scratch, but there are ways around a busy schedule, and we should also consider the long-term health costs of buying the cheaper, (lower quality) ingredients or manufactured foods at the store.
Now let’s talk about this honey butter French bread. I was originally thinking of making a French baguette for bruschetta. I had just bought some fresh creamed honey, so I made a few changes to the recipe. That’s the beauty of bread-baking.
When it comes to baking bread, I still consider myself a beginner. So, I am beyond-pleased with how this bread turned out. The bread was moist with a beautiful, golden crust. Using the creamed honey added a hint of sweetness in the flavor and texture of the bread was still light. The process of actually kneading the bread by hand is relaxing and satisfying, but you can you can use a mixer if you prefer. I do not own a bread machine, so I cannot comment on that.
I ended up using the bread in sandwiches and just simply plain and toasted instead of making bruschetta.
2 cups warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 packet dry yeast
2 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
2 tsp salt
1 tsp creamed honey
5 cups all-purpose flour
Mix 1/4 cup warm water and sugar in a large bowl. Sprinkle yeast over the water and stir to dissolve. Let stand until foamy (approx 8 minutes). Stir in remaining warm water, and then mix in melted butter, salt, and honey. Stir in 4 cups of flour gradually and gently with a wooden spoon.
Turn dough out onto floured work surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (approx 8 minutes), adding more flour if too sticky. Form dough into a large ball. Grease another large bowl with melted butter. Put the dough inside, turning to coat with butter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, followed by a clean towel. Let the dough rise in a warm draft-free area until doubled (approx 1 hour). If you are having trouble finding a warm area, preheat the oven to 200oF and then turn off the heat; then place the dough in the oven with the oven door left ajar.
Punch down the dough once forcefully. Cover dough with plastic wrap and let rest for another 10 minutes. Divide dough in half. Roll each dough piece between hands and work surface to form into two 9-inch long loaves. Transfer loaves to separate ungreased baking sheets. Cover with plastic followed by a clean towel. Let the dough rise again in a warm draft-free area until almost doubled (approx 30 minutes).
Meanwhile preheat the oven to 425oF and position oven rack in the centre of the oven. Make 5 diagonal slashes crosswise into the surface of each loaf. Lightly brush water over the tops and sides of the loaves. Bake for 20 minutes, brushing occasionally with water. Continue baking until golden brown, or until a long toothpick inserted into center comes out clean (approx 15 minutes).
Transfer to a rack to cool slightly. Serve warm or completely cooled.