Bread-buary!: Lean Bread Dough

Hi there! Gosh, I’ve missed this. To new readers, hello. To old subscribers, I will make it up to you. 🙂

I am currently on a bread-making frenzy. If you’ve read any of my old posts, you’d realize that I have made bread before. And if you read through to the end of this one, you’ll realize that my methods are markedly different from the ones in my previous post. Please do not think that I am contradicting myself, or that what I taught before here in Just Today were mistakes. They’re not. Think of it as looking at bread-making from a different approach. Try the method in White Sandwich Loaf and the method I’m presenting here, and choose for yourself.

Like I said, I am, at the moment, in a bread-making frenzy. Let’s just say that “obsessive” would be a good word to describe me. This started last January 31 when I took a bread-making class with my mom. I got so inspired from that class that I decided to make February my Bread-buary!–four weeks of bread-making, improving on old favorites, and trying new ones. I’ll start everything off with another basic dough recipe. This recipe is a lean dough, which I will be using as the starting point for the next bread recipes.

Ingredients

  • 1-1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 Tbsp white sugar
  • 4 tsp instant dry yeast
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup corn oil (you can substitute with regular vegetable oil or melted unsalted butter)
  • 3-1/2 cups bread (or all-purpose) flour (plus 2 cups for kneading)
  • 1/2 cup white sugar

Steps

In a medium bowl, dissolve 1 tablespoon of white sugar and 1-1/2 teaspoon of salt in lukewarm water. Add the yeast. Give the mixture a quick whisk and allow to rest for 5-10 minutes, or until the mixture foams up. Add the oil and again give the mix a quick whisk.

In a large bowl, sift together 4 cups of flour with 1/2 cup of white sugar. Pour the wet yeast mix into the flour and combine together by hand until none of the flour remains as dry clumps. It will be slightly sticky and looks rough at this point.

Turn out the dough onto a clean, lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for at least 15 minutes, or until the dough passes the Windowpane Test.

Watch this video for kneading techniques: BREAD 101 — Basic White Bread: Kneading Techniques
Watch this video for the Windowpane Test: The Windowpane Test for Bread Making

Ball the dough and lightly dust with flour. Place the dough ball in a large bowl lightly dusted with flour. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and poke several small holes on the film. Place a damp cheesecloth over the cling wrap and set the bowl aside in a warm spot in your kitchen with no draft. Let the dough rise until double in size (between 25 to 35 minutes), or for a much better flavor and crumb quality, at least one (1) hour.

This dough ball has risen for 15 minutes after kneading for 20 minutes. It is lightly coated with flour (prevents sticking).

This dough ball has risen for 15 minutes after kneading for 20 minutes. It is lightly coated with flour (prevents sticking).

One batch of the Whole Wheat Lean Dough recipe after rising for 1 hour. It has grown to approximately 3x its original size.

One batch of the Whole Wheat Lean Dough recipe after rising for 1 hour. It has grown to approximately 3x its original size.

Remove the cheesecloth and cling wrap over the bowl. Lightly punch down (more appropriately, push down using a fisted hand) the dough until the large air bubbles are released from the dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Shape the dough according to your bread recipe. Do the second rise and bake according to your bread recipe.

After the first rise, the dough is "punched" down to release large bubbles of gas. This prepares the dough for shaping.

After the first rise, the dough is “punched” down to release large bubbles of gas. This prepares the dough for shaping.

A third of the recipe has been shaped into a 6-inch long loaf. You can choose to make bigger loaves by using half of the recipe for each one. This will be allowed to rest and rise for another 30 minutes before baking.

A third of the recipe has been shaped into a 6-inch long loaf. You can choose to make bigger loaves by using half of the recipe for each one. This will be allowed to rest and rise for another 30 minutes before baking.

If you want to make Whole Wheat Bread, simply replace the Bread Flour with Whole Wheat Flour. Some recipes don’t recommend doing a 1-to-1 conversion, but it works with this one 🙂

Whole Wheat Bread Loaves after the second rise, just before baking.

Whole Wheat Bread Loaves after the second rise, just before baking.

Freshly baked Whole Wheat Bread Loaves. Perfect for sandwiches.

Freshly baked Whole Wheat Bread Loaves. Perfect for sandwiches.

 

 

 

 

 

And it’s simple enough, right? On its own, you can make white bread loaves or dinner rolls with this recipe. Some additional ingredients can turn this otherwise plain-looking recipe into something special. And that’s exactly what we’ll do with my next entry, so watch out for it.

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