i love working with dough. a clear throwback from my Play-Doh period, in which i immersed myself in sculpting the brightly colored, salty-tasting goop into unrecognizable shapes. the other day, i felt the urge to craft something a bit more practical, easily identifiable and with a significantly improved flavor profile.
as i contemplated my packets of yeast, i recalled a particular conversation between my dear childhood friend Harriet and her mom, Mrs. Welsch. the chat centered on Harriet’s school-lunch preferences. ‘”Wouldn’t you like to try a ham sandwich, or egg salad or peanut butter?’ Her mother looked quizzically at Harriet while the cook stood next to the table looking enraged. “Tomato,” said Harriet not even looking up from the book she was reading at breakfast. “Stop reading at the table.” Harriet put the book down. “Listen Harriet, you’ve taken a tomato sandwich to school every day for five years. Don’t you get tired of them? ” “No.”‘
yes, ok. so, Harriet is a fictional character (aka Harriet the Spy, created by author Louise Fitzhugh), and as a voracious young reader, i probably spent more time in my tree house lulling away the hours with her (and other fictional favorites) than with living, breathing humans. to toast Harriet , her love of tomato sandwiches and our common bond of faithfully following our respective true norths, i elected to bake a simple, hearty loaf of white bread. the perfect canvas on which to slather mayo and gently place the revered tomato and sorry, Harriet, a few strips of bacon from Skagit River Ranch.
Classic White Bread
a variation based on a recipe from Martha Stewart Living
makes 2 loaves
i found the amount of coarse salt in the original recipe to be completely overpowering, so i cut the suggested quantity in half. i also increased the amount of honey to give the loaf a sweet finish.
2 1/4-ounce packets active dry yeast
2 1/4 cups warm water (110 degrees)
4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons honey
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for bowl and pans
7 cups organic white flour
1 short tablespoon coarse salt
- butter a large bowl (for the initial rise) and 2 loaf pans; set aside.
- in a measuring cup, sprinkle yeast over 1/2 cup warm water.
- add two teaspoons of honey to mixture and whisk until yeast dissolves.
- let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- transfer mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer.
- add melted butter and remaining 1 3/4 cups warm water and 4 tablespoons honey.
- whisk flour and salt in an another bowl, then add 3 cups of these dry ingredients to the stand-mixer bowl and combine on low speed until smooth.
- add remaining 4 cups of dry ingredients 1 cup at a time, mixing until dough pulls away from sides of bowl and forms a ragged, slightly sticky ball.
- knead the dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic (my favorite part of the process!), but still slightly tacky, about 5 minutes.
- shape into a ball, transfer to bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
- let the dough stands in a warm place until it doubles in volume, about 1 hour. the dough shouldn’t spring back when pressed.
- punch dough down, and divide in half.
- shape 1 dough half into an 8 1/2-inch-long rectangle, about 1/2-inch thick.
- fold along sides of dough into middle, overlapping slightly; press seam to seal.
- transfer dough, seam side, down to loaf pan.
- repeat with remaining dough.
- brush each loaf with melted butter, or dust with flour for a more rustic look.
- drape loaves with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm place until the dough rises about 1 inch above tops of pans, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
- preheat oven to 400F.
- bake, rotating pans after 10 minutes, until tops of loaves are golden brown, about 20 minutes. recipe indicates total cooking time of 45 minutes; my loaves were done in less than half the time.
with any remnants of your loaves, consider making thick slices of cinnamon-orange french toast, topped with Vermont maple syrup. i haven’t regretted the indulgence for a single second.