lemons lining

I have wanted Meyer lemons for years. Mainly because, when I couldn’t find them, there were recipes everywhere with Meyer lemon this and Meyer lemon that, and, well, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Of course, just like most things we want because we can’t have, as soon as I bought them, I couldn’t find any of those taunting recipes, and then I had to go looking for ideas.

I made a cake: a Meyer lemon cake, with Meyer lemon glaze and candied Meyer lemons on top. But it wasn’t that good, and I only kind of liked it, and it took all my Meyer lemons but gave me little in return, just something mildly edible to snack on for the next week, before I would throw the remaining half in the garbage (the garbage!).

And somewhere in the midst of this, I decided that the whole thing is symbolic, and not just of the fact that I always want what I can’t have, from people to places to ice cream sundaes late at night. Truth is, sometimes things just don’t go how you want them to in life. Maybe the bad Meyer lemon cake while Meyer lemon glaze and candied Meyer lemons on top, especially as it was followed by a disgusting Italian casserole and a ho-hum chocolate bread pudding a few days later, should remind me of something greater. I will not always get my way. That is an important lesson, indeed. And another point: usually, there’s a silver lining to things, if you have eyes to see it.

In my case, that silver lining has been fresh bread. I discovered a happy truth about fresh bread, and it is this: no matter what happens on your crummiest of days, you’ll feel a lot better when you have fresh bread to nibble. It’s true. The first time I made this recipe, which, if you must know, was the time I didn’t knead it correctly and the bread was strangely formed but still tasty, especially with butter and honey on top, Chicago had insane rainstorms and our house had flooding, and everything was madness. But, you know, I had fresh bread.

bread to heal

The second time I made it, which was the time I did everything right and saw the dough turn all elastic and soft, right there in the mixer before my eyes, the loaf molding into a perfect (perfect!) shape and texture while it baked, I took it in my lunch, sliced and buttered. And that day, wouldn’t you know but I had a hole in my shirt (a HOLE IN MY SHIRT!), and someone did something very nasty, and, on top of all that, I was late to the office because the roads around here are full of potholes and the tollway people are fixing them in the midst of morning rush hours.

But, at lunch time, the world seemed quite a bit brighter while I held my fresh bread.

bread to hold

There are lots of things I could tell you about this bread recipe: that it’s from one of my Christmas-gift cookbooks, the Art and Soul of Baking, which I’m starting to really love; that it gives you the best kind of triumphant feeling when you see the yeasty dough double in size like it’s supposed to, transforming into a white, rounded loaf before your eyes; that its smell is probably one of the most wonderful scents to hit your kitchen, ever.

But, mainly, I’m just going to tell you this one thing, advice really: bake some hot, fresh bread, and brace yourself. Not everything turns out as wonderfully as it does, so, some say, it’s a good idea to have some in hand.



Old-Fashioned White Loaf
Adapted from the Art & Soul of Baking, by Cindy Mushet

A few quick comments on the ingredients: 1) Don’t substitute anything strange, say like evaporated milk mixed with water, for the regular milk called for. I know it’s a pain to run to the store when you’re out of it, but I learned it matters. 2) Sometimes impurities in tap water can affect your bread’s rising. I don’t trust ours, so I used bottled water that I heated up.

A few quick comments on the directions: If you have a stand mixer, this is your lucky day. Put your dough hook to work and find out that making bread requires you to do very little but follow steps in order. You will not have to knead the dough by hand AT ALL. In fact, it’s very exciting—maybe even thrilling when you’re very tired—to watch the stand mixer turn ingredients into elastic dough. I highly recommend it.

Ingredients:
1/4 cup (2 ounces) warm water – between 110 and 115 degrees F
1 teaspoon sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 cup (8 ounces) warm whole milk – between 110 and 115 degrees F
2 Tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, melted
3 cups (15 ounces) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 egg, lightly beaten

Directions:

MIX, REST & KNEAD THE DOUGH:
Place the water, sugar and yeast in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Allow the mixture to sit for 10 minutes or until the yeast is activated and foamy or bubbling. In the medium bowl, whisk together the warm milk and melted butter.

Place the flour and salt in the bowl of the stand mixer. Mix for a minute on medium speed to blend. Add the yeast mixture and milk mixture and mix on medium speed just until the dough comes together, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp, lint-free cotton towel and let the dough rest for 20 minutes to allow it to fully hydrate before further kneading. Turn the speed to medium-low and continue to knead until the dough is firm, elastic and smooth, 3 to 6 minutes. (NOTE: To mix by hand, combine the flour and the salt in a large bowl, add the yeast and milk mixtures and mix until a dough forms. Turn out onto a work surface and knead until firm, elastic and smooth, about 8 to 10 minutes.)

RISE THE DOUGH (FIRST RISE):
LIghtly oil the tub or bowl, scrape the dough into the tub and lightly coat the surface of the dough with a little oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel, and let it rest until doubled in size, about 45 to 60 minutes. (TIP: If you use an upright, clear container, you can mark where the dough is, with marker or tape, on the outside and will be able to easily tell later if the dough has doubled.)

PUNCH DOWN THE DOUGH AND SHAPE INTO A LOAF:
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Press down on the dough firmly to expel some of the air bubbles, but don’t knead the dough again, or it will be too springy and difficult to shape (if this happens, simply cover the dough with plastic or a damp lint-free towel and let it rest 10 to 15 minutes to give it time to relax). Shape the dough into a loaf the size of your pan. Lightly coat the loaf pan with melted butter or a high-heat canola spray. Place the dough, seam side down, into the pan.

PROOF THE DOUGH (SECOND RISE):
Lightly oil the top of the dough to keep it moist. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap or a damp lint-free cotton towel and allow it to rise again until its top is 1/2 to 1 inch above the rim of the pan, about 45 to 60 minutes.

GLAZE AND BAKE THE BREAD:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Brush the top of the loaf with a thin film of beaten egg. Bake on a middle oven rack for 35 to 40 minutes, until the bread is golden brown and the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer. Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Shanna Mallon

Shanna Mallon started Food Loves Writing back in 2008, as a way to remember her grandma and write about her life through food. Since then it's become a place leading her to a lifestyle of eating whole foods, a new home in Nashville and the love of her life, Tim. Follow Shanna on Twitter @foodloves, keep up with Food Loves Writing on Facebook and stay inspired with the monthly newsletter.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. Lan

    i completely understand the whole concept of not getting ones way or something turning out not so hot… been there, will be there again i’m sure.

    as for your bread… i went thru a bread thing this week too. i was so completely amazed with my standmixer. one moment it was just doing it’s thing and another, elastic dough! other than an avocado peeler, stand mixers are the best kitchen inventions ever.

    jab asked me why i didn’t have regular sliced bread at home anymore. um. hello? why would i when i can make my own bread. something about the warm, yeasty-ness of homemade bread that makes store-bought bread pale in comparison. i don’t think i’ll ever buy bread again…

  2. Rachel

    you know me– ive got 4-6 loaves baking a week. i love it!! perfect for jakes sandwiches… especiallly peanut butter and honey….. mmmmmm…….. i only rarely use egg in mine… i do like egg when i make dinner rolls though.

    your retro-y photos are cute.

  3. Jennifer

    Wow, that loaf *does* look perfect! Good job!

    We used to always make bread in our bread machine. Ooh, how we loved hacking off the top of the loaf, hot out of the oven, and spreading butter and honey on it! Nothin’ like it!

    It was so delicious, unfortunately, that we started gaining quite a bit of weight. And for that reason alone, we put the bread machine away and went back to boring, less-tempting store-bought bread. ;(

    Alas!

  4. Mistina

    Fabulous article. Thanks so much for sharing such yummy, nourishing words of wisdom.

    We truly need to remember to appreciate the simple, good things in life, and how much more basic can you get than a loaf of white bread?

    I look forward to trying this recipe!

  5. Tim

    I had a similarly disappointing run-in with a Meyer lemon recipe a few weeks ago!
    The bread looks like a good solution to any problem, so thanks for that. It looks delicious.

  6. Shannalee

    Lan: Stand mixers = awesome. Am I right? And I’m with you on the bread. This is definitely going to begin a tradition.

    Jennifer: LOL. That’s why it pays to give things away, I’ve found! But thanks for the tip—I’ll try to remember it when I’m holding back from another slice.

    Thanks, Mistina! I really appreciate your stopping by, and you get it: what’s better than the simple things?

    Tim: I am so excited (bad word choice?) that you had the same situation with Meyer lemons. I am not alone! I haven’t totally given up yet, though. There’s gotta’ be a winner out there.

  7. Shannalee

    Well, in terms of looks, Meyer lemons look more like a yellow version of tangerines or clementines—their skin is softer and smoother. In terms of taste, well, let’s just say I’d NEVER eat a slice of regular lemon, but a slice of Meyer lemon was actually pretty good. It’s sweet, but still with a bit of tartness. Hopefully I’ll find some more and then find a better way to use them!

  8. Alejandra

    I just found this blog today and I just love it. I love your writing. Do you know what I was thinking? A lemon bread…with just a hint of sweetness. It could be a way to put those meyer lemons to work in a positive way. I might give it a shot–just need to think about how.

  9. Shannalee

    It’s funny you say that, Alejandra–the other thing I *almost* made was a lemon loaf! If you make one, I’d LOVE to hear how you like it! And, BTW, thanks very much for your very kind comments about the blog!

  10. LB

    I have two questions that will clearly show how new I am to bread baking. First, how many loaves of bread does this recipe make? The dough seems to be way too much for one loaf pan… And second, any suggestions on how to keep the top crust from overcooking/burning?

    1. Shannalee

      LB, It makes enough for one loaf. As far as ways to keep the top from overcooking/burning, I can’t imagine why that would happen with the instructions above. Off the top of my head, I’d say maybe you could lower the oven rack? Let me know how it goes for you!

  11. LB

    Thanks! I think you’re right – my oven rack was too high. I put a piece of tinfoil over the bread once I realized what was happening (and lowered the rack), and the inside (and bottom crust) turned out great. I’ll have to try it again with the rack in the right place. Thanks so much. Great site!

  12. Krista

    Great post! I was just wondering though if you mean to use the dough hook for the stand mixer the whole time? Or should I start with a paddle attachment to combine the ingredients?

  13. Shannalee

    Thanks, Krista! Yes, I did use the dough hook the whole time. At the beginning, when you’re combining the flour and salt, you could use the paddle attachment, but once you add the yeast mixture, you’ll want to use the dough hook, so you might as well just use it to begin with. Hope that’s helpful!

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