I was looking forward to the New Year; last year didn’t go well, yet even so, managed to deteriorate further at the end. I hoped a new year would be a clean start, but only two weeks into the year, it doesn’t seem to be headed in the right direction: Too much work, too much rain, a call from the principal.
I have lots of woes, none of them interesting in the slightest.
My coworker – the one who keeps me sane – isn’t having a good time either. This past week, his teenage daughter got her driver’s license on Monday morning; Monday afternoon, she got pulled over and cited for the second-worst violation one can commit where they live. No one was hit or injured, but she will likely lose her license, and as for my coworker, well, his car insurance is likely going to increase.
I’m not going to win Father of the Year, he tells me.
No, probably not, but he does win bragging rights: His year is off to The Worst Start of anyone either of us knows.
I’m not sure those are bragging rights I want, but I still feel like I lost out somehow.
It has to get better. Cooped up indoors, listening to rain drum against the roof, I root around the refrigerator and find some oranges that I bought to make something or other, so I spend a Saturday afternoon making the Orange and Campari Marmalade recipe from Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food, which turned out nicely, somewhat chunky and a bit bitter, which I like.
I woke up on Sunday wanting English muffins to slather with butter and marmalade, and I had none, nor any motivation to leave the house in the still-pounding rain to buy them. No, I would make something suitable for my lovely marmalade instead.
I had previously tried an English muffin bread recipe from Simply Classic, a Seattle Junior League cookbook I picked up somewhere, and it didn’t go well. The recipe seemed to call for too much flour, so the bread was a bit more dense than I would have liked. But it struck me as a good idea, so I researched it a bit, and found a Cook’s Country recipe that appeared on the Lottie + Doof blog, which has yet to let me down.
I followed the instructions to the letter, and the dough refused to rise. It just sat there glaring at me from the loaf pan in the oven. When I finally gave up and turned the oven off, I heard it laugh.
Since I still had a craving and just enough bread flour left for one last attempt, I researched a bit, and learned that bread does not rise well when it is too dry, a problem I encountered with both recipes. So, for my final effort, I used the Cook’s Country/Lottie+Doof recipe again, but heated up extra milk, just in case the dough became dry.
In the end, I didn’t use it, because I tried mixing it up a bit differently. I mixed four cups of flour to the remaining dry ingredients, but added the fifth cup of flour only after the milk had been thoroughly mixed in. The last cup was added in stages, with more flour only added in once the last addition was fully incorporated. I didn’t use any extra milk, and the dough was plenty moist, and rose, and even bubbled a bit, which you’d expect from a well-behaved English muffin dough.
This dough baked into beautifully browned loaves that sliced and toasted perfectly, even though I couldn’t wait an hour for it to cool down like I was supposed to. I started baking at nine in the morning and didn’t have bread until 1:30, which in my world is waiting quite long enough already, thank you.
It was lovely with marmalade. The Child sliced off a piece and ate it – untoasted, heresy! – with the last of the Rhubarb-Strawberry Jam I made last summer; she pronounced it delightful. It is fortunate the recipe makes two loaves, because although a loaf will keep on your counter for several days, it surely won’t last that long.
- 5 cups bread flour, sifted
- 4½ tsp instant yeast
- 1 tbsp sugar
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 3 cups milk, scalded
- Grease two 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pans and dust with cornmeal. Combine the four cups of the bread flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and baking soda in large bowl. Stir in the hot milk until thoroughly combined. Add in the final cup of flour in three additions, only adding more flour as each addition is fully incorporated.
- Cover dough with greased plastic wrap and let rise in warm place for 30 minutes, or until dough has doubled in size.
- Divide the dough between the two prepared pans, pushing into corners as needed. Cover pans with greased plastic, set them in a warm place, and let rise for 30 minutes, until dough is about at the top rim of the pans.
- Heat oven to 375°F, remove plastic, and place pans in oven. Bake until bread is nicely browned and smells delicious, about 30 minutes. Remove bread from pans and cool on wire racks, about an hour, then slice, toast, and serve.
A note on loaf pans: You may have 9x5 loaf pans, which are not the same as those called for in this recipe. It is fine to use them, but realize that your bread will not rise as high if you do.