Tuesday, February 8, 2011

You've Got to Have Friends

I never intended to be a blogger. I'm a deeply private person, and until I found some Tuesdays with Dorie bakers, I had no blog, hardly knew what a blog was, and no idea how one "started" one.

Over 2 years later I have become comfortable with the level of sharing when one blogs. And I have found on Twitter a group of like minded bakers who inspire and encourage me, and who mean so much to me. We pop in and out, jump into impromptu baking projects, share experiences with cookbooks and sourdough starters, and prop each other up through life's twists and turns.

It was after a 12 hour day at work that I came home and found an unexpected package waiting for me from Nancy. Inside was a lovely note that brought tears to my eyes, and a gift of a bread pan, a pan just like hers, pans that have been passed down in her family, the ones in which she bakes her glorious breads. After coming into a box of similar pans, Nancy thought of her Twitter pals and wrapped up a pan, wrote a lovely note, and sent off these well-loved pans to some of us. For me, it underlined the meaning of friendships between people who know each other virtually, many of whom have never met. 

It had been a while since I had baked a loaf of bread due to a lingering problem with my wrist. I knew the first loaf of bread I wanted to make was one which Nancy had first shared with us, Dan Lepard's simple milk loaf. And so this weekend, I made a double batch of this easy and adaptable bread in my new pan. 
Simple milk loaf starts with all-purpose flour and bread flour, but I usually substitute whole wheat flour for a bit more than 1/3 of the total flour. I also add a tad more butter than the recipe calls for, which makes the bread a little silkier than a traditional wheat bread.

Simple Milk Loaf (adapted from Dan Lepard's The Handmade Loaf, thanks to Nancy, Kayte, Margaret, Di, and Tracey)
Printer friendly recipe 
350 g (12 oz) whole milk, at room temperature
20 g (3/4 oz) maple syrup (you can use a bit more for a sweeter loaf)
175 g (6 3/4 oz) all-purpose flour
125 g (4 1/2 oz) bread flour
200 g (6 3/4 oz) whole wheat flour
1 1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp instant yeast
37 g (1.5 oz, 3 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly, plus extra for brushing loaf
olive oil, for greasing
flour, for dusting

Place the milk and syrup in a measuring cup or bowl and stir together. Whisk the flour, salt and yeast mix together in a mixing bowl. Pour in the milk mixture stir together with a wooden spoon then with your hands to bring together as a soft, sticky dough. Pour the warm melted butter over the dough and mix into the dough with your hands. Cover the bowl and let stand for 10 minutes.

Grease your hands and a flat clean surface with olive oil (or, use a Silpat as I do). Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for ten seconds, then form the dough into a smooth round ball. Wipe the bowl clean and grease with olive oil, then return the dough ball to the bowl and leave for 10 minutes.

Repeat this ten-second kneading and resting process every 10 minutes twice (a total of three kneadings), then let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

Grease a deep 5 x 8 inch loaf pan and dust with flour. Divide the dough into two equal pieces, shape into two balls and place side-by-side into the loaf tin. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for one and a half hours, or until almost doubled in height.

Preheat oven to 410 F. Brush the top of the loaf with a little melted butter and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350 F and bake for another 25-30 minutes, or until the top of the loaf is a shiny dark brown and the loaf has come away from the sides of the tin. Remove from the pan and cool on a rack. Warm bread is pretty irresistible, but your loaf will have the best texture if you wait until it cools completely. That said, if you cut off a few slices to try, only the cut end will be a little moist, the rest of the loaf will completely normal.


Mary said...

I love this post! I have one of the coveted Nancy Pans too and I think it is now on the list of "things after children and pets I would save in a fire".....hope your day is going well, hugs, M

Joy said...

Very sweet! And your bread looks beautiful!

Kayte said...

Don't you just love the Fancy Nancy Pan? I love making Milk Loaf in this because I can get smaller size bread slices for me and it feels like I have a full slice...I can slice them thin and they look like a full sandwich, so it's a bit of trick to save some calories...sandwiches, grilled cheese, toast...works for all of it! Meeting new friends has been such fun, friends that all have love of baking/cooking in common and who have strong family values and enjoy cooking in their homes, etc. I think we are all a bit of a rarity these days, so it's nice to find each other. So glad I found you!

Anne said...

Blogging is wonderful for these reasons. I love the story and the pan is a treasure (the bread looks delicious as well!)

TeaLady said...

IT was so thoughtful of Nancy to share the treasure with us. When I get back to bread my first will bre Nancy's ML bread in Nancy's pan. What a joy to have such thoughtful friends.

I too value all of y'all that I have met thru' blogging and twitter. What would we do without each other's encouragement in baking, cooking, and life. Hope your wrist is better soon so we can cook Indian.

Tracey said...

The milk loaf looks wonderful in the Nancy pan Leslie! It couldn't be a more perfect recipe for the occasion :) Great post, I love our little baking/cooking/blogging community.

I hope your wrist is feeling better soon!

Jessica said...

What a wonderful post - and friend! I was about to make some bread when your post popped up - so what do you think I have resting on my counter right now? I'm using your tweaks. I'm not using this amazing, marvelous pan, but I still think it will taste fantastic.

Cakelaw said...

What a thoughtful gift from Nancy. Your bread looks crusty and delicious - here's hoping your wrist allows you to bake many more loaves in your new pan.

Hanaâ said...

What a great looking loaf. I like that you subbed some WW flour for the bread flour. Will have to try your version of this recipe. And thank you for always leaving such sweet comments on my blog. That's very nice of you! :o)

Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

What perfectly baked little loaves.

Anonymous said...

I love the little baking community that we all share. It kind of feels like our own little world that not very many others would understand.

I've actually had the pleasure of meeting Nancy and let me assure you (not that you'd need to be reassured, lol), she's just as lovely in person as she is in the twitter-verse :) She greeted me with a delicious loaf of bread as well (which made me kick myself for forgetting the cookies I baked her on my oven at home).

The loaf looks fantastic and I'll have to give it a go.

Ps. I hope your wrist feels MUCH better soon!

Katrina said...

Great post. Great looking bread. So you have it in three loaves, could it all just fit in a 9x5 pan as one loaf or would it be two?
Looks like the kind I'd love to try.
I think the blogging world and friens we've made are great, too.
Today is my 3 year blogaversary--come on over to join in a giveaway, if you'd like!

Di said...

That's a gorgeous loaf of bread, Leslie! Believe it or not, I've yet to use my Nancy pan. I need to do something about that. =)