I have made bread only once before. That was me blindly following a recipe. But following a recipe doesn’t mean you know how to bake. It takes a few attempts to learn techniques and develop an intuition. After watching the first season of The Great British Baking Show, I was ready. It made sense to start at the beginning. So despite complaints about “zero nutritional value,” I went for white bread and started with a 5 lbs. bag of bread flour.
Take ⅔ cup lukewarm water and add 1 tsp of instant yeast. Add 1 tsp. of sugar and mix. Let sit for 10 min until a fine froth forms on the surface. Take 2½ cups of bread flour in a large bowl. Add 1 tsp of salt and 1 tsp of sugar. Add ¼ cup lukewarm milk and 1 tbsp. of room temperature butter and mix. Slowly add the yeast mixture while stirring in flour. Form a moist mixture and knead with your hands until springy to the touch. Place dough ball back in the bowl and cover bowl with a plastic sheet. Let the dough sit in a warm place to “proof” for an hour until the dough is almost doubled in size. Now punch air out of the dough, and shape it into a rectangle that is the same approximate length and width as your loaf pan. Place dough into greased loaf pan. Cover loaf pan with a wet cloth and let sit for another hour until dough rises 1″ above the loaf pan. Preheat oven to 375°F and bake for 20 min. Spray water occasionally into the oven to keep it moist. After 20 min, remove loaf from the pan and let cool completely before cutting into it.
Overall, it was a successful first attempt. It tasted good, and disappeared quite quickly. The crust was crispy and the inside was soft and airy.
As you can see in the picture, the shape of the loaf did not turn out perfectly even. It is a little taller in the middle than the sides. This happened because when I placed the dough into the loaf pan, the dough was lumpier in the middle. It was not evenly distributed. I will have to do better next time!