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Empress of the Universe Homemade Bread

How to make homemade bread
Homemade Empress of the Universe Bread

This recipe comes from my mom. There are a few things she makes that simply are 5 star quality... her baked goods being a category of goodness all to itself. The following quote is from her:

"There's no magic, but years of experimentation have taught her some techniques that may be new to you. Unlike most baking, the recipe is not exact--more or less flour depends on the conditions (heat and humidity affect dough) and the type of flour dictates the amount. So here's the outline, and you can begin your own process of becoming Empress of the Universe."
*Empress of the Universe is a title she bestowed upon herself years ago. See what I had to live with? ;)

Best Bread in the World:

Yeast (1 package or 2.25 tsps)
Sugar or honey
Bread Flour
Vegetable Oil

Pre-heat oven to 200

1 tbs. fast-acting yeast (I buy the jar, but you can use 1 pkg.)
3/4 c warm water (baby bath temperature or 110 degrees for you purists)
2 tbs honey or 1 tbs. sugar (the yeast needs something to eat)
*I find sugar gets better results. Who knows?

Whisk these in the bowl of your stand mixer and let sit until bubbly (about 3-5 minutes)

While you're waiting, oil a very large bowl.

Next add 2 more cups warm water, 3 cups bread flour and 1 tbs. salt. Adding salt directly to the yeasty water will kill the yeast, so make sure you add the flour before the salt This is also the point that you can add other ingredients--I will often throw in 1/2 c of dried onions, 1 c grape nuts cereal (yeah, I know, but it's great in bread!), a package of Ranch or Italian dressing mix or chopped jalapenos and cheese. If you want to add cheese to your dough, grate the cheese (about 2 cups) on your cutting board and toss with about 1/4 cup flour so it doesn't stick together before adding it to your mixture.

Mix your dough with a paddle at low speed for one minute, then turn the mixer up to medium and let it whale away for at least two minutes. You want to beat some air into this sucker, and this is where the mixer really excels--I gave up doing this part by hand when my rotator cuff about gave out.
Turn the mixer off, scrape down the bowl and add another 2cups of flour--start mixing on low and move to med/high.

By now your bread is starting to look like something. Change to the dough hook and add another cup of flour. Start low (my mixer likes to fling flour all over the counter like a flower girl (get it?) When the dough cleans the bowl and loses its stickiness, let the mixer knead it for a minute.

Empty the bowl of dough onto a lightly floured board and knead by hand a few times. Form it into a ball, and put it smooth side down into your oiled bowl. Rotate and turn it over so that it's covered with a very light sheen of oil. Place a dinner plate or cookie sheet on top and put in your preheated oven. Turn the oven off. Wait until it doubles--it will take about 45 minutes to an hour.

While you're waiting, oil your bread pans. Oh, and be sure to wash the mixing utensils and bowl right away--bread dough turns into cement if you let it dry.

When your dough is has doubled in size, remove from oven and preheat your oven to 425.
Punch down the dough (just like it sounds), divide it into two pieces and knead each individually into a nice loaf-shaped torpedo. Place in pans, put your pans in the microwave to rise a second time. You don't turn the microwave on! This is a perfect spot to keep the loaves warm with no drafts. Just be sure nobody turns on the unit and starts arcing your pans all over the place.

Your second rise should take about 45 minutes--the dough is ready when it's at least 1 inch above the top of the pan. Put the loaves in your preheated oven and bake for 35 minutes. Remove from the oven, turn out of the pans and cool on wire racks for at least 20 minutes (Mr. Martini cannot obey this rule; the first loaf is always squashed because he slices it while it's hot).

If you like a soft crust, brush with a little butter when it comes out of the oven. We are crunchy crusters here, so no butter necessary.

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