I know, I know, between the bleached white flour and white sugar, it’s nothing more than “crack for your bloodstream”, but it goes really well with cassoulet! It has a nice crust and a chewy interior, perfect for soaking up the sauce at the bottom of your bowl.
This version with the scalded milk is pretty much a staple/standard, and also my favorite bread to have with a Ploughman’s picnic lunch.
Makes two loaves.
Preheat oven to 200 F. Turn off as soon as temp is reached. I use the oven as the place to proof my bread. This assumes of course, that you don’t need the oven for anything else while the bread is proofing/rising. The inside temp will cool as soon as you open the door to put the dough in to rise, so no need to worry about “scorching” the bread. The kitchen at my Grandma’s farmhouse led to the mud room, so there were always drafts when people were coming in and out in the winter. Using a slightly warm oven as a bread proofer was her solution — but she was often making 6 – 8 loaves at a time!
Generously oil two loaf pans on all sides and set aside.
1 pkg active dry yeast
½ cup warm water (105 – 115 F)
2 cups whole milk
2 tbsp (tablespoons) granulated white sugar
1 tbsp vegetable shortening
1 tsp sea salt
~ 6 cups sifted all purpose white flour
Proof yeast by mixing together 1 tsp of the sugar in warm water in a coffee cup or small bowl. Sprinkle yeast over top; set aside in a warm, draft free place for 5 – 10 minutes, or until yeast starts to foam. When yeast has foamed, stir in and blend into water-sugar mixture. Set aside.
In a saucepan, scald milk, remaining sugar, salt and shortening until shortening begins to melt, stirring constantly to avoid milk from boiling over. Remove from heat and allow to cool to warm. When cooled, mix in the yeast and blend well.
Pour liquids into a large, deep mixing bowl. Add 2 cups of flour, and beat flour and milk mixture together really well until very smooth and begins to pull away from spoon. Start to mix in remaining flour until you can’t stir any more in with a spoon.
Turn dough onto floured board and begin kneading, adding more flour as you knead. The longer you knead the bread, the smoother the texture will be, so you can “adjust” how rustic you want your loaf to be by how long and how vigorously you knead the dough. It should take about 6 – 10 mins, until dough is smooth and stretchy.
Place dough into a clean bowl that has been oiled on all sides. Cover bowl with a clean tea towel and place in a warm, draft free place until dough has doubled in size ( just under 2 hrs, usually). I use my pre-warmed oven.
After dough has risen, punch dough down and divide into two equal portions. Shape into two balls and let rest for 10 – 15 mins. Shape into a loaf and transfer to oiled bread pans. Brush tops of loaves with olive oil or melted butter. Allow to rise again in oven (pre-warmed but shut off) for about another hour.
Remove loaf pans from oven; turn on oven heat to 375 F. When oven has heated, bake loaves for 40 – 45 minutes, or until bread tests “done”. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks before slicing into generous chunks.