When Covid-19 came knocking in mid-March, and just going to the supermarket became an ordeal, I realized quickly that I could make far better bread than the usual stock in the stores. Having made plenty of bread in the past, but for various reasons, time among other things, I had gotten out of the habit. Not now. In casting about for a really good recipe — not too complicated, but one that provided an excellent texture (read: good slicing characteristics for toast and sandwiches) — I came across this recipe out of Rock Recipes. As in The Rock. The Newfoundland Rock, not to be confused with any other rock. Barry Parsons, the creator of Rock Recipes, has a true talent for turning out incredible recipes, and just so you know it is some kind of love affair, of course I have all his cookbooks.
A Bread Journey of Sourcing Flour in Short Supply
What ensued over the next several weeks and months, was a culinary journey. A bread journey to be exact. What started as white bread moved onto rye, pumpernickel, and a caramelized onion version.The rye and pumpernickel come from another source, but the onion is a variation I created on Rock recipes’ white bread. So here is the story: At first I started using the Rock Recipe white bread, but as we were in the middle of a pandemic, the usual supplies of flour and yeast dried up. It became a quasi-comical set of circumstances, but when in need of bread, one knows no bounds.
At first, my flour supply was not up to the whole task, so I had to find flour somewhere. Along comes Amy (not her real name), friend and wife of my mechanic. “Oh I have a 5-pound bag that I bought for someone else who no longer wants it. You can take it.” My car just happened to need its snow tires taken off. Done.
Then the yeast supply was gone. I asked my son the non-baker if he could help me out on this. Living in a big city, and knowing the local supply was devastated, he said sure. A few days later, a large bag of SAF instant yeast arrived, along with a story. He went across the street from where he was living to a little Italian market. He saw something called yeast extract, and thought, well, that sounded good. Gets up to the cashier. The girl, who knew him, suddenly asked, “Are you Australian?”
”What do you want to do with this yeast extract?”
Oh…my mom wants to bake some bread.
“OH. No! You don’t want Marmite!“ She led him down the aisle to where the real yeast was located (sorry Marmite lovers).
In fairly short order, I blew through the 5-pound bag and put out increasingly concerned calls for flour. Again, my non-baker son came to the rescue in spectacular fashion. He went back to little Italian market, telling me they had really "large" bags of flour. Sure, fine. Buy it. A few days later he arrives, and I started to get an inkling of something here. He backed his little Honda up to the garage, popped the trunk, and I had an” uh-oh, what have I done here moment,” as he hauls out a 50-pounder. Now that’s flour! A little shocked, but oh so pleased.
In a similar fashion, one needs other flours, and found the local health food store had started delivery. Great! More flour, this time 20-pounders of rye and regular white.
What were the results? I started making anywhere from four to six loaves every time I baked. Usually four, but if I knew my son was coming out, I would make extra and send a couple loaves home with him. And it’s still happening! The technique has been even more streamlined, and I do use a Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook, but if you want to take your Covid frustrations out on the dough and knead by hand, totally go for it. For all these months, nary a commercial loaf has come in the house (I do admit to the stray French baguette that wandered in from the supermarket last week, but other than that). Anyway, without further adieu, here is the recipe for The Best Homemade White Bread
The Best Homemade White Bread Recipe
- 6 1/2 cups flour
- 1 package, 5 grams or 2 teaspoons, traditional dry yeast (or I use 2 teaspoon of instant dry yeast)
- 2 teaspoon Fine salt
- 3 tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoon melted butter
- 2 cups lukewarm whole milk
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
For the traditional yeast:
1. Dissolve 1 tbsp of the sugar in the half cup of lukewarm water. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the water and let stand for about 15 minutes until the yeast foams well, then stir it up. If you are using the instant yeast just add it to the flour mixture along with the 1/2 cup of warm water. (Just make sure you end up with the 3 tbsp. of sugar total in the recipe.)
2. Combine 3 cups of the flour along with the 2 tbsp sugar and 2 tsp. salt (and your instant yeast if using at this point) in a large bowl or in the low of a large electric mixer that uses a dough hook.
3. Add the prepared yeast, melted butter, and warm milk.
4. Using a wooden spoon or the regular paddle of your electric mixer mix for 4-5 minutes until the mixture is smooth with no lumps.
Mixer or Hand Beating
1. If using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook at this point and begin to slowly incorporate the remaining 3 1/2 cups flour. If not using electric mixer keep mixing in the flour, gradually until a soft dough forms that leaves (cleans) the sides of the bowl. (Note: You may have to use a little more flour. Depends on the time of year and humidity sometimes. If you have to add another 1/2 cup or so, don’t worry. Add only enough flour to form a dough that releases from the sides of the bowl and remains slightly tacky but able to be handled with your bare hands.
2. Turn the dough out onto the counter top or bread board to knead.
3. Knead the dough for an additional ten minutes either in the electric mixer or using your hands on a bread board or counter top.
1. Cover dough and leave to rest and rise for one hour. Punch the dough down and knead it for a few minutes by hand before letting it rest for another 10 minutes. See note below for handy trick I developed.
2. Grease 2 medium loaf pans. Divide the dough into 4-6 portions. Form each division into a ball. Place 2-3 balls of dough in each loaf pan.
3. Cover with a clean tea towel and allow the dough to rise until is about 2 inches above the rim of the pan, about 2 hours depending on room temperature.
1. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 for 30-40 minutes depending on the size of the pans that you are using. The loaves should have a golden crust and sound hollow when tapped to be fully baked. Alternatively, using a thermometer, it should read 180 degrees.
2. When baked, turn loaves out onto a wire rack to cool. Brush tops with melted butter if desired to soften the crust (I don’t find this necessary).
I developed the handiest little trick for ensuring your bread rises, and in a fairly timely manner. Use a seed starting mat. Just plug your mat in, and put the dough, either in the bowl or in the pans, on the mat, and let heat and yeast take over. Works beautifully. So, when spring is over, don’t put your seed mat away. It is an important cooking tool.
Parsons, Barry C. Rock Recipes: Rock Recipes. Last accessed November 20, 2020. Mr. Parsons also has four cookbooks to his name: Rock Recipes 1, Rock Recipes 2, Rock Recipes Christmas, and Rock Recipes Cookies. His fifth one is just coming out now, Rock Recipes 3. I can personally guarantee each one is excellent.
Sue Van Slooten teaches cooking and baking classes at her home on beautiful Big Rideau Lake in Ontario, Canada. She specializes in small classes for maximum benefit. Follow her homesteading adventures and check out her class offerings at www.SVanSlooten.com. Email Sue questions at suevanslooten [at] icloud [dot] com, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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