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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Apron Anxiety's Recipe for Hot Bread Success

If you follow me on facebook or twitter, or read this blog regularly enough to pick up on my links, you know I LOVE Apron Anxiety. Moreover, I love Alyssa, who IS Apron Anxiety. Alyssa and I have been friends since my insane wild child days in NYC (don't ask, I won't tell you anyway) and our friendship has survived breakups, marriage, several careers in PR, a crazy dating blog, and more. Somehow, we're better than ever, and I have to thank our love of food, cooking, and writing for some of that. She's a genius at her laptop, and becoming a rockstar in her kitchen--thanks to her relationchef (she's engaged to Spike Mendelsohn, the hot, fedora wearing, wise-ass from Top Chef Chicago.) 
Here is Alyssa's fool-proof recipe for homemade bread, sure to make any man fall to his knees.

I’d love to say that I learned to bake bread from a peasant lady in Lisbon. Or because I’m earthy, crunchy and cool. But let’s be real- I learned to bake bread because I like the way it makes my house smell. And when your fiancé comes home at the crack of dawn - tired, starving and craving comfort – this makes him worship you.

I guess ignorance is bliss because I didn’t even realize bread-baking was any sort of badass accomplishment. It came really naturally. Which is baffling since things like roasting chicken and boiling potatoes still result in me plea-bargaining for Percocet.

Then again, if we do indeed turn into our mothers (oy!) I suppose I was destined to stalk strangers on the bus, take bubble baths before bed, ignore my husband’s opinion and become an amazing baker of bread.

This recipe is a no-brainer. Literally – it requires no brain (I know this because I’ve made it while very distracted and not-in-the mood). It has a short rise-time and very simple ingredients. Everyone enjoys it. Best with good butter or a few slices of cheese.

Your home will smell sensational. Brilliant night to ask for that beach house, baby or back rub. You can thank me later.

Shaker-Style Walnut and Rosemary Loaf, as found on
2 1/4 cups very warm whole milk (120°F)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces, room temperature
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup warm water (110°F to 115°F)
 2 envelopes active dry yeast
 1 large egg, beaten to blend
 6 1/2 cups (about) all purpose flour
  1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary
  Vegetable oil
1 large egg yolk, beaten with 1 tablespoon whole milk (for glaze)

Pour milk into large bowl. Mix in sugar, butter, and salt; cool to lukewarm. Place 1/4 cup warm water in small bowl; mix in yeast. Let stand 6 minutes.

Stir yeast mixture and 1 egg into lukewarm milk mixture. Mix in 4 cups flour. Beat with wooden spoon until mixture is smooth. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sponge stand until bubbles appear at edge, about 15 minutes.

Mix nuts and rosemary into sponge. Mix in flour, 1/3 cupful at a time, until soft, slightly sticky dough forms. Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead until smooth and no longer sticky, sprinkling with flour as needed, about 10 minutes. Brush clean large bowl with oil. Add dough; turn to coat. Cover bowl with plastic. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Brush two 8 1/2x4 1/2x2 1/2-inch nonstick loaf pans with oil. Punch dough down and turn out onto work surface; shape into two 8-inch-long loaves. Place in pans. Let rise, uncovered, until almost doubled in volume, about 45 minutes.

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 375°F. Using serrated knife, make shallow cut down center of each loaf. Brush loaves with glaze. Bake until golden and crusty, about 35 minutes. Turn breads out of pans. Cool on racks.

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