Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sesame Pan Bread

This single rise, three-hour recipe yields un-fancy bread that I think should be torn apart, rather than cut.  The recipe is for two loaves baked in cake pans.

3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 packages active dry yeast (if you buy fast-rising, expect things to happen faster than I say below)
About 8 cups flour
2 cups water
1 cup milk plus a little more to brush on the top of the loaf
One egg, slightly beaten
1/4 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup butter plus a little more to grease the pan

Put your milk and butter, together, in a measuring cup, in the microwave, and warm on a low setting for 30 seconds.  Check with your finger, aiming for the milk to feel warm, not hot, and the butter to get soft, not necessarily melted.  (If it's still cool, the yeast won't rise, and if it's hot, it'll die. If it gets too hot, let it cool until it's pleasantly warm.

In a big bowl, combine the sugar, salt, yeast, and two cups of the flour. Mix it together well.

Add the milk, and two cups of water that are also at that nice warm-not-hot temperature.

Mix together well, using a big whisk or an electric mixer if you have it. You'll have a kind of thick flour soup after about two minutes.

Add the egg and another cup of flour, and mix until it's all smooth again.

Add another two cups of flour, and mix as well as you can with a big spoon, or switch to using your hands, for another full minute

If it's still truly gooey, add another half cup of flour, and mix really well, for another full minute with your hands.  Repeat the half cup and a full minute if needed, and again if needed. (Flour is sneaky stuff and its behavior can vary with things like the size of your egg and the dampness of the day.)  When it's pretty easy to pull it off of your fingers, it's ready to knead.

On a very clean counter, spread a really light dusting of flour, and turn the dough on to it. Stretch it, fold it, punch it, flip it, over and over, for about ten minutes.  If it gets sticky, spread a little more flour on the counter and a little more on the top of the dough.

Make it into a ball, and turn the bowl over on top of it.  Leave it alone for 15 minutes.

Use butter to grease your two cake pans. (Use butter because it will encourage the crust to brown on the sides.)

 Cut the dough in half (when the 15 minutes are done) and put half in each pan.  With your fingers, press it evenly out to the edges of the pans.

Cover with a towel, let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 40 minutes.  (Warm means some place you'd be comfortable in a tee shirt.  In the summer, the kitchen counter. In winter, think of putting the pans on the top of the stove if you're not cooking, or on a table beside a heat vent.)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Brush the bread with a little milk, sort of like you're painting it and trying to get some milk everywhere, but without worrying about getting it perfect because you can't because it's bread.  Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Bake 40 minutes or until golden and hollow-sounding when tapped with a finder.

Aunt Nancy gave us The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook as a wedding present.  I've modified the recipe to use the microwave and to insist on the butter for greasing the pan and to call for more flour because I never ever got a workable dough using the original amount called for in the book.

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