Making Yeast Bread Making Yeast Bread/Proofing the Yeast The first step of making yeast bread is to make sure that the yeast is alive. This is called proofing the yeast. This is one of the most crucial steps because, if the yeast is dead, it can't leaven the bread. To proof the yeast, measure out the amount of milk or other liquid that is specified in the recipe, and heat the milk to a temperature of 100° to 110°. You can heat the milk in the microwave if you wish. Microwave at HIGH for about 1 minute or until the milk reaches at least 100°. Add the warm milk to a large bowl, and stir in the yeast and the sugar. Let this mixture stand for about 5 minutes. Live yeast will begin to swell and foam or bubble a few minutes after it's stirred into the warm liquid.
Making Yeast Bread/Making the Dough To make the bread dough, add most of the flour to the liquid ingredients all once and stir just until the mixture is combined. (Save some of the flour for kneading.) After the mixture is combined, dump the dough out onto a floured surface, and you're ready to knead. Add enough of the remaining to get the dough to the desired consistency for kneading. It's OK if you don't use all of the remaining flour.
Making Yeast Breast/Kneading the Dough Knead the dough with authority. Push is out with the heels of your hands, fold it over, give it a quarter turn, and repeat. Add more flour if you need it. Knead for 8 to 10 minutes or until the dough feels smooth and elastic, but still a little tacky.
Making Yeast Breast/The First Rising Place the dough in a large bowl for the first rising because the dough will double in size. Cover the bowl with a slightly damp lightweight dishtowel and place in a warm place, approximately 85°, free from drafts, for 1 hour. When the dough appears to have doubled in size, gently press two fingers into the dough. If the indention remains, the dough has risen enough. Punch the dough down in the center to deflate it.
Making Yeast Breast/Rolling the Dough After you have punched the dough down to deflate it, turn the dough out onto a floured surface for rolling. For this recipe, we want to roll the dough into a rectangle. Lift the rolling pin up slightly as you near each end of the rectangular shape. Now roll up the dough, starting with a short edge. Roll the rectangle tightly, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets. Pinch the seam and the ends to seal.
Making Yeast Breast/The Second Rising For the second rising of the dough, roll up the dough and place it, seam side down, in a greased loaf pan or one that's been lightly coated with cooking spray. Cover and let it rise 1 hour or until the loaf has doubled in size. Watch the loaf carefully. If it rises too much and starts to fall, the bread will be dense. Once the loaf has doubled in size, the dough is ready to bake.
Dissolve yeast and sugar in warm milk in a large bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in butter. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Add 4 1/4 cups flour and salt to yeast mixture; stir until blended. Turn dough out onto a floured surface. Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes); add enough of remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands (dough will feel tacky). Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size. Punch dough down; let rest 5 minutes. Roll into a 14 x 7-inch rectangle on a floured surface. Roll up rectangle tightly, starting with a short edge, pressing firmly to eliminate air pockets; pinch seam and ends to seal. Place roll, seam side down, in a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray. Cover and let rise 1 hour or until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 350°. Uncover dough. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes or until loaf is browned on the bottom and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove loaf from pan, and cool on a wire rack.
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