So. This whole thing happened. Maybe you heard about it? A worldwide pandemic that is currently still sweeping our Nation? A global event that forced us to examine how we live our lives and, in the end-stage capitalism haven I live in the dead center of, caused a sweep of grocery concerns? Toilet paper! Paper towel! Yeast?
I was surprised by yeast. Until I started to see it all over my social media feeds. Endless questions about sourdough starters, self-rising flour, the difference between dry active and instant yeast. What about fresh yeast? How long should it bloom? Is my yeast from six years ago when I made dinner rolls that one time and thought I was Martha Stewart still usable (me – I’m talking about me)?
For some reason, all of us, staring down the barrel of an unknown and rapidly spreading killer virus that we knew would make it impossible to ‘just run to the store for a couple of things’ turned to the idea of baking bread. Why is that? Why bread? Nobody went and bought a bunch of live chickens or checked their city regulations on owning livestock (6 chickens, 0 cows).
I thought about this for a long while. I wondered what it was about bread, specifically, that we were all so worried about. Can’t we live without bread? I mean, we can. But, it sits at the center of the human dinner table since 30,000 years ago. At least. So. While we were all watching in horror that rapid decline into Idiocracy, we turned to the thing we’d always turned to since we figured out agriculture and fire. Bread requires flour, water, and heat. In the panic and the deep, deep fear (now sitting firmly in my gut as an anxiety ball/rage bomb) was the desire to be able to continue providing the very basics of humanity to ourselves and our loved ones.
That’s what bread represents: Survival. A sense of normalcy. Well sure! The world IS on fire (literally, sometimes) but, I’ve got bread on the table. Sure, I haven’t been inside a building other than my home since March, but I can still have a piece of toast in the morning.
In the wake of chaos, such a simple concept.
I’d say we’re pretty far past Breadgate 2020, but what was born out of the pandemonium, in this house, was a recipe for sandwich bread that is now requested by my husband and son at least once a week. It doesn’t require balls of sour bread goo or figuring out how to cultivate your own yeast. It wasn’t going to be the bread that made it possible for me to make bread without ever having to buy bread ingredients again.
But it is delicious. And it’s a really nice treat now and then. Because truth be told, there is no comparison to homemade bread. It fills your home and belly with the satisfaction felt around the world for 30,000 years. At least. What could be more comforting than that?
The Need to Knead
I have both kneaded this dough by hand and allowed my stand mixer to do it and there was, honestly, no difference. I’m not saying that’s the case with all gluteny goodness you’ll ever make. But in the case of this bread, give yourself a break and let the machine do the work for you.
Reilly Sandwich Bread
Makes: 1 Loaf
- 3 C all-purpose flour
- 1/2 C milk
- 2/3 C hot water
- 4 T unsalted butter, melted
- 2 T sugar
- 1 1/4 tspn salt
- 1 packet (or 2 1/4 tspn) active dry yeast
- Olive oil
- Various measuring cups and spoons
- Small bowl
- Stand mixer w/kneading attachment
- Large bowl
- Clean towel
- Loaf pan
- Mix milk and hot water together to create luke warm mixture. Set aside.
- Put the flour, sugar, salt, and active dry yeast in your stand mixer and give it a quick little mix.
- Pour in the melted butter, then with the mixer running on its slowest setting, slowly start pouring the milk mixture into the dough. You may not use all of the liquid. You want a dough that looks moist and sticky, but isn’t gloppy or runny. If you happen to add too much liquid, just toss in a bit of flour until you’ve got the right consistency. The dough should pull away from the sides of the bowl while being mixed.
- With the kneading attachment of your mixer (or with your hands, you overachiever) knead the dough on a medium speed for a good 6 to 8 minutes.
- Grab a large bowl, pour a little olive in there and transfer the dough to the bowl. Cover loosely with a towel and allow to rest until it doubles in size, 1 to 2 hours depending on various conditions. Note: If you get worried about what ‘doubled in size’ looks like, you can always snap a picture of the before and compare it.
- Preheat your oven to 350 F/177 C/Gas Mark 4
- Gently deflate the dough and shape into a log. I like to sort of pull the top of the dough over to the bottom to make a really nice smooth top with all the loose bits tucked in under itself. Plop it in a greased loaf pan and let it rise for about 30 minutes to an hour, until the dough is just started to peak over the sides of the loaf pan.
- Bake for 36 minutes. Pull out and allow to cool for 10 minutes, then remove it from the loaf pan and cool completely (or as long as your grabby 12 year old allows) on a wire rack.
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