Saturday, April 10, 2010

White bread weekend

I have three white bread recipes to make for my bread challenge - two from BH&G, one from Ina Garten - so I decided to make them all in one weekend and try them all to see what we like. Ina does this all the time with products. She'll buy up all the brands of mayo, for example, and see which one is her favorite.

The first recipe, which I made on Friday, was easy mix white bread. This was made like most of the other bread recipes in BH&G:
  1. Mix yeast and flour together.
  2. Heat wet ingredients to 115-120 degrees.
  3. Beat ingredients together.
  4. Stir in flour, then knead in remaining flour.
  5. Riiiiiiiiise.
  6. Coat with melted butter (or, if you're me, Pam).
The wet ingredients for this one were milk, sugar, shortening, and salt. We tried the easy mix white bread in some sandwiches for an on-the-road picnic on Saturday, and it was pretty tasty. Kind of dry, like a sourdough almost, but still with white bread flavor.

The next recipe, completed on Saturday, was conventional white bread. It had most of the same ingredients as easy mix white bread, but in sort of a different order and in different proportions.
  1. Heat water (115-120 degrees) and pour into yeast to soften.
  2. Heat wet ingredients to 115-120 degrees.
  3. Pour softened yeast and wet ingredients into flour and beat together.
  4. Stir in flour, then knead in remaining flour.
  5. Riiiiiiiiiiise.
  6. Coat with melted butter (or, if you're me, Pam).
I could tell this bread was a little more moist, but we didn't get to try it until later.

The last bread was Ina Garten's honey white bread, which she lists in Barefoot Contessa Parties as a solution to the fact that "good" bread is hard to find. Ina is infamous for insisting that you buy "good" ingredients, sometimes making home chefs feel a little defensive. Nonetheless, Ina is not messing around about bread. Homemade bread is always better.

Ina's recipe is predictably more rich than BH&G, including most of the same ingredients as the other white breads, plus butter, eggs, and honey. Ina's is also more complex:
  1. Soften yeast in warm water (110 degrees), and feed some sugar.
  2. Melt butter and cool a bit.
  3. Heat wet ingredients (milk, etc.)
  4. Separate eggs.
  5. Beat together wet ingredients, dry ingredients, and yeast mixture. Add egg yolks and butter.
  6. Stir in flour and knead in remaining flour.
  7. Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiise.
  8. Coat with beaten egg whites.
Yeah, you can tell I got some dishes dirty making this one. Still, the loaves came out pretty nice.

They wound up a little flat, so I think next time I would make this one in my smaller pans.

If you have been doing any math so far, you can probably tell that I made six loaves of bread. Of course, we did not keep all of them. Faron got a loaf of easy mix white bread, Ed got a loaf of conventional white bread, and a law friend Elizabeth got a loaf of honey white bread. Phew.

I cut a hunk off of each loaf and we tried all the bread with some cheese spread.

In the above photo, the top-most one is easy mix, counter clockwise is conventional, and the lower, flattened one is honey white.

The honey white was obviously the softest, with all that butter and egg. It almost tasted like challah. However, I'm sure it was also the highest in calories. For the best health value, probably conventional was my favorite. It was almost as soft as honey white, but without the added calories. So Ina's is a nice one for a treat, but conventional is probably better for more frequent use.

Oh, and I should note for my readers that I have completely switched to homemade bread. Nothing is better and more awesome for sandwiches than homemade bread, and big, thick hunks are much nicer for breakfast with some Smart Balance butter, or cheese spread, or jam... You get the picture. Mmmmmm.

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