|*Please see "Fun Fact" below for a note about my incompetence.|
When in doubt, I can always trust my Better Homes and Gardens cookbooks. The new versions account for traditions long since lost, like sifting flour. The old versions have delightful social and historical clues about life during its publication ("Busy Day Cake" is one of my favorites). And best of all, their recipes generally don't call for lots of ingredients you won't have.
|*Looks good, right? I'm a terrible cook, so imagine how great your loaf will look! See "Fun Fact" below.|
(click here for slightly more printable version)
1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 t (or one package) active dry yeast
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
cornmeal or Cream of Wheat (optional but awesome)
1. Combine the milk, water, sugar and salt in a bowl or pan. Microwave or heat on the stovetop until it is just warm; no warmer than 130 degrees; if you can't hold your finger in it comfortably you're going to have to wait until it cools down or else you'll kill the yeast. TRUST ME.
2. Combine the yeast, baking soda, and half the flour in a mixing bowl.
3. Add the milk mixture and mix on low until nicely combined and most of the lumps are gone.
4. Change to your dough hook. (You can definitely do this by hand but the dough will be more like bread dough than a batter. Good for the bingo wings though.) Add the remaining flour, one half-cup at a time until the mixture comes together into a sticky dough.
5. Spray the sides of a small bread pan (8x4) with Pam or grease with shortening or butter. Spoon in a teaspoon or so of cornmeal and tip and tap pan over the sink until all sides are covered evenly with cornmeal, adding more as needed. If you don't have cornmeal or Cream of Wheat then flour the pan as you would for a quick bread.
6. Scrape out the dough into the prepared pan and sprinkle with cornmeal if you'd prefer the tops of your slices to be chewy rather than crispy. (My loaf is crispy.)
7. Store in the oven with a pan of boiled water or the microwave with a mug of boiled water (to create a nice steamy environment) for 45 minutes to raise.
8. Bake at 400 degrees for 25 minutes or until golden brown on all sides. This should release from the pan easily while hot so be sure to get it onto a cooling rack before it starts to steam.
9. When cool enough to touch, slice thick and toast well. Don't stop at the first toasting! Make sure the bread is nicely browned all over so you can enjoy the crispy outside, the chewy crust and the soft middle. Top with butter, peanut butter, honey, Nutella, jam, a fried egg, etc.
*Fun Fact: If you only have half the yeast available, or (like yours truly) if you ran out of coffee and tried to divide the recipe while uncaffienated and only added half the yeast, you still end up with a nice loaf! It's a little dense, but still nice to eat. I promise. Especially with butter, peanut butter and honey. I've said it before: if I can make something and have it turn out great, you KNOW it's going to be amazing if you try it. Go on, then. Go get your English muffin on, you non-idiot, you.