Finally…a Loaf of Bread

by Manasi

I tried my hand at making a loaf of bread a while ago and failed miserably. It was dense and ugly and completely fell apart after I sliced it. I put it in the freezer to ‘save’ it and finally threw it away quietly months later when it was nearly unrecognizable. Since then, I’ve had much more success with yeast, but never attempted another loaf. Over time though I got much better at figuring out how to work with yeast and other bread doughs. I think it was around the time I made the pita bread that I felt like I could get the hang of it. I was kneading the dough and after the exact 8 minutes it came together and was suddenly this gorgeous, elastic ball. Often times when I try and make something new, I read the instructions, but at some point, I get it ‘right’ and suddenly everything seems to make sense.

I was eager to try out my new found skills on a loaf of bread to see if it was true, or if I could just make pita bread. I happened to get dill in my CSA box one week and decided to make this bread from smitten kitchen. It’s funny because I only knew of the recipe because it contained all the instructions on how to make a good loaf of bread–which apparently had never clicked with me–but I had read it over when making pizza dough before. This sounded really good to me, even though it had cottage cheese in it. There is something about cottage cheese that really grosses me out. I like yogurt just fine and even came around to sour cream, but something about cottage cheese really turns me off. The only thing worse is probably buttermilk. Either way, both of these are usually pretty good once they’re in another dish, so I went with it.

I highly recommend reading smitten kitchen’s tutorial on working with yeasted breads–it’s super helpful and gives you a great number of tips on working with bread and yeast. Here are some of my own to add. First, make sure your yeast is new. You should use it within 6 months(if you buy the jar) and keeping it in the fridge helps ensure that it lasts that long. Just make sure to leave it out a bit to warm it up before you use it. I like to measure it out and leave it on the counter for an hour or so. The smaller amount will warm up faster than the entire jar. Second, and I think smitten kitchen mentions this in her tips, but if you knead by hand, you’re probably not going to over-do it. So keep kneading until the ball suddenly comes together and is smooth and silky and not too sticky. Sometimes I’ll add a bit of flour, but be careful and add a little at a time. Most of all, go with your instincts. Chances are if it seems incorrect, it probably is–so keep on trying until you feel like it’s correct. A lot of this kind of comes with trial and error, but it’s definitely much more instinctual than you think. And finally, the bread itself? It was delicious. It was so flavorful and tasted especially good with bruschetta topping from good ole Trader Joe’s.

Dill Bread

from smitten kitchen via Joy of Cooking

1 package (2 1/4 teaspoons) active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm (105 to 115°F) water
3 cups bread flour (I replaced 1/2 cup of this flour with whole wheat)
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, or 1 tablespoon dried dill or dill seeds
2 tablespoons sugar or honey
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup large-curd cottage cheese
1 large egg

Combine yeast and water in a small bowl and let sit until dissolved, about 5 minutes.

Combine flour, onions, dill, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast, cottage cheese and the egg. Mix by hand until the dough comes together. Add more flour or warm water as needed. Knead for about 10 minutes until dough is smooth and elastic. Alternatively, you can do this whole process in an electric mixer. Just mix the ingredients with a dough hook then knead until the ball is smooth and elastic. Transfer to a bowl lightly coated with oil. Coat once then cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm, draft free place until doubled, about an hour to an hour and a half.

Grease a 9×5 inch loaf pan. Gently deflate the dough, form into a loaf in place into the pan, seam side down. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about an hour. It should rise above the pan.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the top with butter and sprinkle with salt. Bake until golden brown and the bottom sounds hollow when you tap it. It should take about 35-40 minutes. smitten kitchen said her bread registered about 200°F, but mine didn’t get past 190°F and it was fine. If it gets ‘stuck’ at a certain temperature, chances are it’s fine. Remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.

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