Da Loaf

In Baking on October 29, 2009 at 11:08 am

The Loaf

How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex? — Julia Child

Now for some word history! The word “loaf” has germanic origins and has an interesting relationship with the words lord and lady. In Old English a loaf of bread was hlaf. Lord came from the word hlaford which means loaf-ward or bread keeper. Lady came from the Old English word hlaefdige meaning kneader of dough or bread maker. The use of Lord and Lady started in the 12th century. By the 16th century we had the term breadwinner meaning livelihood. The etymology of the word loaf highlights the integral role bread has played in daily life since the Middle Ages! It’s astounding to me that bread alone has defined household roles and relationships and in some ways still does!

The act of bread making has been around since long before the Middle Ages; however, in modern times we’ve gotten out of practice. In fact before I started making bread last week I found the idea quite intimidating. Since sharing my bread making activities with friends and family I’ve received so many accolades for my baking skills. While I’m grateful for their complements and support the process of making bread had me thinking of the definition of loaf as a verb, which is to avoid activity, especially work. This couldn’t be a more perfect description of the bread making process. Dough is the laziest form of food ever! It requires minimal ingredients, lots of rest, and then has to be pushed around to form any respectable shape! As for the bread maker, the dough process allows time to be quite productive! In fact most of the time making dough is spent leaving it alone and doing other things. In our household making bread started from a need: we were out of it! Now it’s become a source of structure for my day and an outlet for my creativity.

Here is the recipe I used. It’s from Mark Bittman’s fabulous book, “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.”

Sandwich Bread


  • 3.5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1.5 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar or honey, or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, or butter (at room temperature if you’re working by hand), plus more for the bowl and the pan
  • Scant 1.33 cups of cool milk, preferably whole or 2% (warm the milk to at least 70 degrees F if you’re working by hand)
  • Directions:

    1. Put the flour in a food processor, add the salt and yeast, and process for 5 sec. With the machine running, add the sweetener, the oil, and most of the mild through the feed tube (you’ll need less milk if you’re using a liquid sweetener). Process for about 30 sec., then remove the cover. The dough should be in a well-defined, barely sticky, easy-to-handle ball. If it’s too dry, add milk 1 tablespoon at a time and process for 5-10 seconds after each addition. If too wet, which is unlikely, add a tablespoon or two of flour and process briefly.

    2. Use a little more of the oil to grease a large bowl. Shape the dough into a rough ball, place it in the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise for at least 2 hours, until nearly doubled in bulk. Deflate the ball and shape it once again into a ball; let rest on a lightly floured surface for about 15 min., covered. Below is a picture of my dough at this stage.

    Dough Rising

    Dough rising

    3. Using only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands or the work surface, flatten it into a rectangle, then shape it into a loaf. Use the remaining oil or butter to grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Place the loaf in the pan, flattening the top of it with the back of your hand. Cover and let rest for 1 hour, or until the top of the dough is nearly level with the top of the pan. Here are pictures my lovely fiance took of me shaping the dough:

    Shaping dough 1

    Forming the dough ball into a rectangle

    Shaping dough2

    A dough dinosaur!

    Dough rising 3

    Tucked the edges under

    dough rising 4

    Nestled into the bread pan to rise for an hour

    4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Brush the top of the loaf lightly with water, then put in the oven. Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it (it will fall easily from the loaf pan) or the internal temperature reads about 210 degrees F. Remove the loaf from the pan and cool on a wire rack before slicing.

    1. Thank you so much for the recipe Julia … oh … uh …Evie
      The pictures are amazing … your personal photographer is very talented, as are you.
      I am going to try making the loaf with all-purpose whole wheat flour.
      I’ll let you know – perhaps with pictures …how it turns out.
      Where did you get the red loaf pan?
      love that too …
      A. MJ

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