This is a classic home-made bread recipe that produces a delightfully fluffy crumb! I will always be fond of it because it is the first bread that I managed to decently recreate on my own. I learned to make it from Allison, who was the cook for a small community in the Wrangles St Elias National Park in Alaska. It was so nice to have an actual human being who I could ask questions, instead of following an online recipe by myself. One thing I specifically asked about was how warm the water should be when dissolving yeast. This may sound like a stupid thing to be confused about, but I had previously made the mistake (more than once, I’m afraid) of seeing a recipe call for ‘100f’ water and thinking ‘100c’ and using boiling water. (I was studying a lot of chemistry at the time…) Needless to say, the bread didn’t rise. At all. So imagine my surprise when I learned that the water should just be luke-warm :)
Another thing I remember is Allison saying, “People always say to me ‘Wow, how do you get your bread to be so sweet?’ And I say ‘I put a lot of sugar in it…'” And be careful, the slight sweetness can make it addicting; after Allison’s lesson, when the loaves were still warm from the oven, I ate half a loaf by myself. You can decide how much sugar you want to add, but keep in mind that it helps the dough rise faster because it makes the yeast happy :)
2 cups warm water
1 1/2 tbs yeast
2/3 cup sugar (I only use 1/4)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 tsp salt
4-5 cups flour- at least half should be white to keep it fluffy, but the other half can be whole wheat. You can also add oats or other grains.
-Dissolve the water, yeast, and sugar together, and let sit until it foams, ~5 min. (This checks if the yeast is alive. If you use your yeast a lot and know its alive, you can just wait until it dissolves.)
-Stir in the vegetable oil, salt, and 3 cups of flour. Add 1 cup oats if you want to. Slowly add the last 1-2 cups flour to make sure the dough doesn’t get too dry- you want a dough that slumps on its own before kneading, not one that holds its shape.
-Knead on a floured surface for ~10 min. You should see and feel the dough change and become more elastic and less sticky.
-Put the dough in an oiled bowl covered with a damp cloth, and let it rise in a warm place for ~1 hour, or until it has doubled and keeps fingerprints.
-Punch down and knead for 1 minute.
-Preheat oven to 350f. If you have a bread stone and/or a cast iron pan, put them in the oven. (Putting large rocks in your oven can also help your bread if you don’t have a bread stone.) Be sure to preheat your oven at least 30 min in advance it heating stones or a pan.
-Divide dough in half and shape loaves. Put them on a baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise ~30 min. They don’t have to double.
-Put loaves in oven on the baking sheet, or slide loaves onto bread stone and put 1 cup water in cast-iron pan. Test if the loaves are done by thumping on bottom and listening for a hollow sound.
Try not to eat it all at once :)