We had both a chemistry and a physics lesson in the kitchen the other night. Chemistry in the form of water, flour, and yeast (so maybe it’s a biology lesson?) transforming into bread. Physics in the form of what happens when heat and cold and glass meet. For those of you might not remember high school physics, heat, cold, and glass result in explosions.
When I make bread, I often place a pan on the lower rack, let it warm as the oven preheats, and fill it with water. The steam helps the bread get a final rise in the oven and gives it a crisper crust. I generally use a metal pan, but just happened to grab a glass pan this time around. Now, in my defense, let me say this: I did not pour cold water into the hot pan. The water was boiling and there was still enough of a temperature difference to shatter, completely, the glass pan. The photo was taken after the bread finished baking (no sense wasting a hot oven) and so doesn’t quite do justice to just how much glass there was, since, as the oven door was opened and closed, most of the shards fell into the drawer under the oven. Or under the oven. Or between the oven and the dishwasher. Or across the entire kitchen floor.
The bread turned out fine, though. We don’t do much baking in the summer, but now that we actually want our house to heat up, I’m more than willing to have the oven provide a little warmth. This is a pretty basic sandwich bread, good for toast or with soup. I tend to get impatient and don’t let my bread rise long enough, so my loaves are always a bit denser than store bought, but still good.
Basic Sandwich Bread
Makes 2 loaves
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
- 2 cups warm water
- 2 tbsp sugar or honey
- 1 packet yeast (instant or active dry; about 2 1/4 tsp)
- 2 tbsp soft butter or vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups white whole wheat or whole wheat flour (or use all bread or all-purpose flour)
- 4 cups bread or all-purpose flour
- 2 tsp salt
Mix the water, sugar/honey, and yeast and let stand til bubbly, about 10 minutes. Add in the butter, salt, and a few cups of flour. Mix, then add the rest of the flour. Mix till a shaggy dough forms. Let rest a few minutes, then knead til the dough becomes smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes in a stand mixer, 10-15 minutes by hand.
Place in a lightly greased bowl, cover tightly with plastic wrap, and let rise until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours, depending on kitchen temperature. Divide the dough in two and form each into a flat square or rectangle, just wide enough to fit into a loaf pan. Roll the squares of dough as you would a jelly roll or a ho-ho, pinch the seam together, and place seam side down in loaf pans. Cover with a towel and let rise until the dough crowns about an inch above the pan (or less, if you’re like me).
If you’re daring, place a metal pan on the lower oven rack and preheat the oven to 350°. Place the loaves in the oven, pour 2 cups boiling water into the metal pan, and bake the loaves for 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool a few minutes in the pans, then cool loaves on a wire rack.