It's early morning. I am usually up at about 4 or 5 AM. A combination of being old and my bladder ain't what it used to be, and I like the morning. From where I sit and type out my blog posts, I can see the sunrise, I like to have my mornings to clear my head before the rest of the world wakes up.
And sometimes I plan my meals for the day. How does a nice thick cut piece of French Toast made from this bread sound. You just have to plan ahead, and make the bread the day before. It comes together easily, only has a 2 or 3 hour rise and is well worth the effort.
And makes a great sandwich.
But for me... It's a nice to ponder a bit of home. And this bread reminds me of Home. I named this recipe after my cat, "Eng". I have had 134 wonderful days in paradise so far... and one terrible day. Back in April, I posted... I baked a loaf of bread to remember my Cat - We'll call it Eng's Bread. Feel free to click the link. But, while I was frolicking on the beach, my beloved cat passed away. Lots of things I loved about my cat, but among the best was that he would sit in the kitchen and watch me cook.
So, this extra sweet bread (I added a pinch more sugar) will always make me think of Eng, the laziest, most fun sous chef I will ever have.
In reality, the bread is a loaf of French Bread. I do a few small extras, to make the recipe my own (or Eng's), and to add a bit of my favorite tastes.
So, here we go...
Makes one 2-pound loaf
1 1/2 cups lukewarm water (about 100º F)
1 tablespoons granulated yeast
1 tablespoons kosher or other coarse salt
3 cups all-purpose white flour (no need to sift)
2 1/2 TBS Sugar
Extra 1/4 cup Flour to aid in kneading
a pinch of Sea Salt
And secret ingredient you will see in a second... keep reading.
- Mix the dry ingredients first. I like to do the mixing stage in a gallon size ziplock bag. Aids in keeping a bowl clean, or your countertop.
- Add the water and mix well. Be sure the water is warm, but not too hot. Anything above 110 degrees will kill the yeast before it gets a chance to do it's magic.
- Now it's time to knead the bread. Keep the extra flour handy, as the dough at this stage is very wet. Knead for at least 10 minutes. You will need to add flour to get to a sticky, but not too sticky phase. With experience, you can feel and see the bread become hydrated. That is when the ingredients mix completely, and it is ready for a rest.
- Modern Bread makers call it proofing, old timers call it rising. But whatever you want to call it, form the dough into a ball, cover with a towel and let it rise for 2 to 3 hours. The dough will double in size in that time (again, reminds me of my fat cat, who also doubled in his preferred size)
- And now, it's time to punch the dough down, form the loaf, add toppings and allow the final rise...
- Punching the dough is exactly what it sounds like. The yeast releases gases. That is why the dough doubles in size. When you take a punch at the dough, the gases are released. The dough returns to it's original size. If you are dividing the dough, use a knife to cut the dough, instead of tearing.
- But I like to make a big loaf, no dividing. You can make a round inverted bowl shape, or in this case, I made a loaf size. A little kneading is fine (it's just fun to knead), but no more than a minute or two.
- If you press the dough out to a circle, even thickness, and roll it up, it forms a nice submarine shape.
- And now, a few tricks I have learned...
- Do an egg wash. Just a beaten egg, brushed on.
- Really, trust me on this, this next step... it works... But shhh, don't tell anyone...
Sprinkle a pinch of paprika over the bread.Really. I am serious. The paprika will give you a beautiful amber color to your crust as it bakes.
- Sprinkle a little rough cut sea salt. This will over power any additional taste the paprika might add. really, do the paprika, no one will be able to taste it, and your bread will look amazing.
- Take a sharp knife, or a serrated bread knife and make decorative 1/4 inch deep slits into the top of the dough. If making a loaf, do slanted stripes across the top, or if making a bowl shape, make a tic tac toe pattern. Do this AFTER the egg wash, AFTER adding the paprika and salt. When it bakes, it will show up better.
- Now, position the dough on a sheet of parchment paper, on a pizza stone, or jelly roll pan and allow a final 45 minute rise (no more)
- I bake the bread (350 degrees) using a remote read thermometer, with the prob inserted into the center of the bread. The bread is done when it reaches an internal temp of 190 degrees. If you cook by time, it takes about 25 minutes if you are baking a loaf (long, thinner, like a submarine), or about 30 minutes if you are baking a bowl shape.
- Allow to cool for 30 minutes before cutting!
And here are some photos of those steps...
Except for this photo, he had a pretty good life.
Except for this photo, he had a pretty good life.
And soon he will become a legend in the baking world...