To me, making bread from scratch has always seemed a daunting task. A few years ago, I learned a recipe for a rustic, artisan type loaf and I've pretty much stuck to making that bread for friends and family all year long ever since. I heard it said once or twice that baking is a science. It’s true! It IS a science, but I think it’s more like…well…magic (like nerve impulses in the human body or electricity…MAGIC.) I could not begin to explain to you how baking works, but I know a few things are very important. First, you have to accurately measure your flour (this is VERY important.) You ALSO need happy yeast. Okay, so “happy” is a stretch, but I assume they are happy when they are swimming and foaming up in a bowl of warm, sweet water. Among a few other components, a warm place for your dough to hang out for a while is also important. I know it sounds complicated, but if you trust the process you, too, can master bread making. And Make-Ahead-Bread: 100 Recipes for Melt-in-Your-Mouth Fresh Bread Every Day will set you on that glorious path of coaxing yeasted dough into crunchy, chewy vessels of warm yumminess. Make ahead bread? Really? Yes, really!
Mini Everything Loaves
Adapted from “Mini Sunflower Seed Loaves” from Make Ahead Bread: 100 Recipes for Melt-in-Your-Mouth Fresh Bread Every Day by Donna Currie
1 1/4 cups warm water (105°F to 110°F)
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 Tablespoon sugar
2 1/2 cups (11 1/4 ounces) bread flour, plus more as needed
1/2 cup (3 ounces) semolina flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
1 teaspoon dried onion flakes
Nonstick baking spray
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon water)
Place the warm water, yeast, and sugar in a small bowl (I actually used a two-cup measuring cup for this step…works like a charm.) Use an instant read thermometer to be sure your water is at least 105˚ but not warmer than 110˚. In about 5 minutes time, the yeast will be all foamy and ready to get to work.
While you’re waiting for the yeast to foam up, combine the bread flour, semolina flour, salt, and oil in a large bowl (I used a stand mixer with a dough hook.) Add the foamy, now very alive, yeast to the flour and mix on low until a dough ball forms and all of the flour has been incorporated into the dough. If you live in a humid climate like me, your dough may still be too wet (sticky.) Just sprinkle a little flour into the mixer (1 Tablespoon at a time) until the dough is no longer sticky. Turn up the speed to medium and knead the dough for 5 to 7 minutes, until the dough has a more elastic consistency.
Next, combine the sesame seeds and poppy seeds in a separate small bowl and pour half of the seeds onto the dough ball (reserve the other half to sprinkle on top of the bread.) Continue to knead the dough for another minute on medium speed until the seeds are well incorporated into the dough ball. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a warm damp towel and let is rise until it has doubled in size (about an hour.)
This recipe calls for you to use four mini loaf pans (5 3/4 x 3 inches.) Spray each pan really well with non-stick spray and set aside.
Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto a floured surface and then divide the dough into four equal blobs (or four equal parts.) Working with one piece of dough at a time, pat the piece of dough into a square equal to the length of the pan you’re using (in my case the dough needed to be roughly 5-inches square.) Roll up the dough into a jellyroll or cinnamon roll type log. Pinch the seam closed, as well as the ends of the log to seal it closed and place it, seam side down, in the loaf pan. Repeat with the other three pieces of dough. At this point you can cover the pans with plastic wrap (seal them in a plastic bag) and refrigerate them for 12 to 24 hours before you bake them. But, I couldn't wait that long, so I baked these the same day.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. If you did refrigerate your dough, you’ll want to remove the pans from the refrigerator, take the pans out of the plastic bag and let them sit out on the counter for about 30 minutes before baking. Since I didn't refrigerate my dough, I gave the dough another 15 minutes to rise a little more while the oven was heating up.
Combine the remaining sesame seeds and poppy seeds with the garlic granules and onion flakes in a small bowl. Brush each loaf with egg wash and sprinkle each loaf generously with the seeds, garlic and onion. If you are using pans that are close to 5 3/4 x 3 inches, bake the bread for about 20 to 30 minutes. The internal temperature of the loaf should read 195°F on an instant read thermometer.
Remove the loaves from their pans and cool them on a rack before you slice into them.