Tuesday, February 5, 2013

White Bread

The Setting: A toasty apartment in a snow-drenched wonderland.

The Soundtrack: Disney's Lady and the Tramp, or "Puppy Movie!" as Oia likes to say. It's her favorite.

Steaming up the Oven: Roasted Brussels sprouts.

The Scenario: A little love for the black sheep of the dinner table.

With the one-two punch of society's push for heart-healthy whole grains over nutritionally vacant white flour and the recent proliferation of gluten sensitivity, white bread is the culinary equivalent of persona non grata these days.

Here at casa de Crumm, we have a hearty love of breads and baked goods in all their gluten-globbing glory.  When it comes to white flour, however, we do our best to avoid it, throwing whole-wheat flour into everything from Cuban bread to cookie dough.

Still...every once in a while...white bread calls my name.

With its slight, subtle sweetness, tight crumb, and soft, squish-able texture, it's sensational for sandwiches, terrific as toast, and an irresistible snack straight from the oven (though you really should let it cool first).

The recipe I've developed borrows heavily from Rose Levy Beranbaum's "Basic Soft White Sandwich Loaf" in The Bread Bible (Norton, 2003), an incredible resource for anyone who likes to bake bread or is thinking about giving it a shot.

I've followed Beranbaum's white bread recipe several times with highly delicious results--she's more an expert on baking than I will ever be, try though I might. The last time the white-bread craving struck, however, I was on a strict, two-week-long, 100-percent-dairy-free, doctor-mandated diet.

I'd had a full month of tummy troubles, and the doctor, believing I might be lactose intolerant, instituted the fortnight of no-dairy-of-any-kind to test her hypothesis. Even low- and virtually-no-lactose dairy items were banned.

Thus, with the butter and nonfat-milk powder in Beranbaum's bread on the forbidden list, I had no choice but to meddle with perfection.

My recipe shakes things up a bit with beer, coconut oil, and coconut milk, yielding two loaves of flavorful, approachable, dairy-free white bread that will rattle your whole-grain good intentions to their core.

White Bread
Like Beranbaum's bread, this white bread relies on a starter mixture and an overnight fermentation period for extra flavor development. I promise it's worth the wait. I find that a stand mixer makes easy work of mixing and kneading the dough, but I'm sure you could do it by hand if you prefer.

~The Starter~
12 oz bread flour or all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur)
12 oz light beer, room temperature (I use Miller Lite)
1.5 oz honey
3/4 tsp active dry yeast

~Everything Else~
12 oz bread flour
3/4 tsp active dry yeast
9 T coconut oil, room temperature (should be solid but soft)
2-4 T coconut milk
2 tsp fine salt

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the ingredients for the starter.

Cover and set aside.

In another bowl, mix together the remaining flour and yeast. Sprinkle this mixture over the starter mixture, but do not mix.

Cover with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 1-2 hours to initiate fermentation. Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to continue fermenting overnight (at least 8 or up to 24 hours). Remove bowl from fridge 30 min-1 hour before you're ready to mix the dough.

When ready, use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment to slowly incorporate the flour mixture into the starter mixture. Add the coconut oil, beating on med-low speed until the dough begins to come together. Switch to the dough hook. With the mixer on med-low speed, add the coconut milk 1 tablespoon at a time, just until the dough comes together, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Turn the mixer to medium speed (6 on a KitchenAid), and let the dough hook knead the dough for 8 minutes. The dough may try to flop over the side of the bowl during this time, so stand by and scrape it back down into the bowl if needed. The dough should be glossy and pliable when fully kneaded.

Add the salt and knead one more minute.

Transfer the dough to a large, greased bowl, cover, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size (about 2 hours). Gently lift up and lightly tuck the dough underneath itself all around the edges to release some of the gas that has built up without deflating the dough completely. Cover and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size again (about 2 more hours).

Grease two Pyrex loaf pans. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough in half.

Form each half into a rectangle about the length of your loaf pans.

Roll each rectangle up into a log, and place each one in a loaf pan.

Cover the pans and let the dough rise once more, until it has doubled in size or puffed up just above the edges of the pans (1-2 hours).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit 50 minutes before you are ready to bake.

Place the loaf pans in a roasting pan and add about half an inch of water to the bottom of the pan to create a bit of steam during baking.

Bake for 50 minutes (rotating the pans halfway through) or until the tops are golden and hollow-sounding when tapped. A skewer inserted in the center of each loaf will come out clean when the loaves are done.

Take the loaf pans out of the roasting pan and allow the bread to cool in the loaf pans for 15 minutes before running a knife along the edges and inverting the pans onto a cooling rack to let the loaves cool completely.

Store the bread, tightly wrapped, at room temperature for up to three days, or freeze for up to two months. For best freezing results, wrap each loaf tightly in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil, and then seal it tightly within a freezer-safe zip-top bag.

Any bread left after three days will make incredible French toast--if you have any bread left after three days, that is.

Thanks for reading! Here's to Being the Secret Ingredient in your life.

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