I have always loved baking homemade bread but haven't always had the best of luck with yeast. Baking, for me, is an exact science; follow directions precisely and the end result should be a perfect creation of my detailed efforts. However, yeast is entirely different and can seem extremely tempermental. When proofing the yeast, if the temperature of the liquid is too hot, you can "kill" the yeast. If it's too cool, the yeast won't activate. Add too much flour, your crumb may be too dense. Not enough? Too sticky. This can be a daunting task for the home baker like me. I've come to the conclusion that working with yeast and bread baking is one of those tasks that you just have to pull yourself up by your boot straps, jump in with both feet and bake, bake, bake. As I consistently tell my children, "If you want to be good at anything, it takes effort, lots of time and practice". :)
This bread recipe came from my latest "Simple & Delicious" food magazine. Staying true to its cover title, this bread recipe was a cinch to throw together, took no time at all to rise and had a deliciously moist crumb that suited our Italian meal perfectly. The combination of herbs and garlic would compliment many varieties of main dishes. Not to mention, it makes a beautiful presentation for the everyday meal or would impress your dinner guests for a lovely, more formal evening.
If you're like me and are little wary of working with yeast, this would be a perfect recipe for you to throw into the ring as a practice bread. The yeast is not proofed in any liquid but is added in with the dry ingredients and then the wet ingredients are mixed in. Simple! The dough is needed by hand, which can be very theraputic and then braided and rests for 25 minutes. Short, sweet and perfect for any night of your week.
From the heart of my kitchen to yours, may your experience be fun and the food always flavorful. Enjoy!
4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. sugar
2 pkg. (1/4 oz. each) quick-rise yeast
2 tsp. dried basil
1-3/4 tsp. dill weed
1-1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. garlic powder
3/4 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed
3/4 cup 2% milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup butter, cubed
1 Tbsp. butter melted
In a large bowl, combine 1-1/2 cups flour, sugar, yeast and seasonings. In a small saucepan, heat the milk, water and cubed butter to 120-130 degrees. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until moistened. Add egg; beat until smooth. Stir in enough remaining flour to form a soft dough.
Turn onto a floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic, about 4-6 minutes. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
Divide dough into thirds. Shape each into a 15-in. rope. Place ropes on a greased baking sheet and braid; pinch ends to seal and tuck under. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 25 minutes.
Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with melted butter. Remove from pan to a wire rack to cool.
Source: Taste of Home's "Simple & Delicious" Jan/Feb 2010