Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Braided White Bread

Working in a coffee shop, you get to know your regular customers. You get to actually like some of them, too, to the point that you actually enjoy making their drinks and talking to them when they come in. On my first day of work at the coffee shop, my boss introduced me to a lovely couple who came in for a cup of coffee or two pretty much every afternoon. They're big into baking (and are generally super awesome people, too), so we hit it off pretty well. They're baking speciality is bread. Lots and lots of bread. Every now and then they'd bring some in to the shop for us to try out, and oh my. There really is nothing like fresh, homemade bread.

You may have gathered by now that most of my baking revolves around sweet things. I love to make cakes and cupcakes and cookies. I've never really made bread before. I've made a few yeast-based recipes before but not actual bread. Now even though the coffee shop is closed, I still talk to this couple fairly often; we email back and forth to keep in touch. Side note: They've been sending me pictures the last couple weeks because they're in Italy right now. (Hi, guys! If you're reading this, I hope you're having an amazing time! But also, why are you reading this when you could be doing way cooler things like eating gelato, walking through vineyards, or eating freshly made pasta?)

Anyway... I got the itch to make some homemade bread, so naturally, I turned to these two for a recipe. I've made bread from a box mix before using my mom's bread maker, and while that tastes alright, it's not really what I want in good bread. The crust gets thick and tough, and I was really looking for something that would be much lighter. Don't get me wrong, I do like crusty breads, but there's a time and place for them. For now, I really just wanted a basic, simple, white bread that wouldn't break my teeth when I tried to bite into it. They sent me back two recipes as options, and this is the one I decided to try. It perfectly met my requirements and really exceeded my expectations for my first ever loaves of bread. I figured something would go wrong--it usually does--but aside from almost running out of butter to put on all the slices Justin and I ate last night, it was pretty easy and straightforward.* And delicious, did I mention that? Our apartment smelled amazing, too, which is always a bonus in my book.

*Typing out the recipe just now, I realized that I only added 1 package of yeast, not 2. It came out alright, so I guess that's okay. It just didn't rise as much as it would have otherwise, I suppose. Now I guess I'll have to make it again the proper way. See? I told you something usually goes wrong.


1 1/2 c milk
1/4 c sugar
1/4 c shortening
1 tbsp salt
1 1/2 c warm water
2 pkg yeast
9 c all-purpose flour (King Arthur suggested)
1 egg


Pour the milk into a small sauce pan over medium heat, and heat to 180 F, stirring frequently. Meanwhile, combine the sugar, shortening, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the milk, and stir to combine.

Sprinkle the yeast on top of the warm water, which should be between 105 and 115 F, and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. Add the yeast mixture to the mixer bowl. Add half of the flour to the bowl, and using the dough hook, mix until smooth. Gradually stir in the rest of the flour (you may not need it all), and mix on low until smooth and elastic. Dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl but not be overly dry.

Place the ball of dough in a greased bowl. Cover, and let rise in a warm location for about an hour. Punch down the dough, and divide it into thirds. Divide each of those pieces into thirds again, forming these pieces into braids. (You should end up with three braided loaves.) Beat the egg well, and then brush it over the loaves. Let rise 45 minutes in a warm location. Bake at 350 F for 25 minutes.

Servings: 24

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