Yesterday I baked bread. Just a simple white bread, Julia Child's way. It's good--everyone agrees. I started out by gathering all the ingredients and quickly realized my yeast may not have been fresh, so rather than taking the chance I put everything on hold and ran to the supermarket to pick up a few things. Once I got back I realized I forgot the yeast so I had to go back again. I was finally organized and had the bread baking in the oven by 11:00 am. It was at this stage where everyone began miraculously appearing in the kitchen from who knows what deep dark corners of the house. You can't see them in the photos, but they're all hovering just outside the frame of the camera lens... waiting.
In the bowl of your stand mixer, pour 1/2 cup of the warm water. Add the yeast and sugar, let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add 5 cups of the flour, the salt, and the rest of the water to the yeast mixture. Mix slowly with the dough hook until blended. Continue mixing, adding the remaining flour a tablespoon at a time until the dough comes cleanly away from the sides of the bowl and forms into a ball. Add in the butter a tablespoon at a time until the dough is smooth, not sticky. Continue mixing for about 10 minutes. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured baking surface and knead it for a few minutes. It should be smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball and place it in a large buttered bowl. Turn the ball over so the entire surface is covered in butter and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise until it has doubled in size, about 1 hour to 1 - 1/4 hours. (I like to turn on my oven at the lowest setting for about ten minutes and turn it off. I then place the bowl inside to rise as the temperature is ideal.)
Meanwhile butter 2 loaf pans. Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it down, turn out onto lightly floured surface, and divide it in half. Working with one piece at a time, role the dough out to an approximate 9-inch-wide and 12-inch-tall rectangle. With the short side toward you and starting from the top, fold the dough 1/3 of the way down, then fold it down again, like a letter. Pinch the seam closed. With the seam side down, tuck the ends under and pinch to seal. Place the dough seam-side down into your buttered loaf pans. Cover the loaf pans with buttered plastic wrap and allow to rise again until doubled in size, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 375F. Bake loaves on center rack for 35 - 45 minutes. The bread is done when the tops are golden brown and the loaves sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Remove from oven and quickly brush the tops with butter for a soft flaky crust. Immediately turn out of pans to cool. Once cooled (yeah right) the loaves can be cut.
What a weekend--we managed to get in two full-fledged Christmas dinners in a row. Saturday, we hosted my parents. Being Snowbirds, they haven't been around for Christmas in many years so it was a real treat being together. I got up at 5:30 am and baked pies, stuffed the turkey, unpacked more China, set the table, wrapped last minute gifts, etc.
Question: Silly girl, why did you not pace yourself and have much of this done ahead of time?
Answer: I don't know. I do this every year, I never learn. Ever.
Sunday my brother and family hosted us all and we did the whole thing all over again which was wonderful. Monday was a well-earned grunge day for all of us. This is where we laze around in our pajamas all day long doing absolutely nothing or whatever lazy thing we want to do. Love those days, Mylo does too. He cuddled with me all day except at the sound of the fridge door opening. Apparently he has discovered a taste for leftover turkey.
We've lived in our home for 2-1/2 years and I still have boxes in the basement waiting to be unpacked. Thrift store finds, hand-me-downs, special little gifts, all waiting patiently for a space of their own.
I'm not sure the middle of the Christmas Season is the best time for the uncontrollable homey decorating bug to hit, but it most definitely has. Move over Garland, the Vintage China is moving in.
Of course one must always have help with these things.
Thank you all for your very kind comments and lovely suggestions for the shortbread, I look forward to trying out some of your ideas for my next batch. Currently cozied in reading The Handmaid's Tale, drinking tea and nibbling chocolate. Life is very very good. Hoping yours it too. xox