So. Here’s the situation. You’re afraid of baking with yeast. You think that it’s only meant to be used by pastry chefs, grandmothers and Martha Stewart. You may have tried it once or twice before to disastrous results. So now, you avoid it at all costs and stick to the store bought stuff.
The first thing you should realize is that you’re not alone. Plenty of people are intimidated by yeast. I used to be one of them.
The second thing you should know is that in spite of your fears and/or bad past experiences, you too can bake with yeast. You really can.
As much as I love baking now, I’m not so good or full of myself that I can’t remember the days when I wasn’t good at it–the days when baking used to just straight up humble me.
Heck, there are some days when I mess something up and it still does.
There are also days when I too doubt my own abilities and whether or not I’m actually ‘good’ at this, or just a really good faker. On those days, I tend to keep things in my kitchen simple so that I don’t create situations where I’m prone to mess up.
Today’s recipe is the third thing that I want y’all to know about, as this is a recipe that uses yeast, yet I can still guarantee you will be fool-proof and deliver a delicious result. The ingredients and steps are minimal. There’s so kneading or shaping required. You probably have everything you need to make it already. The only thing that you’re missing is belief in yourself and that it’ll actually work.
That’s where I come in: I’m here to tell you that you CAN do it, and that it WILL work. There are no hard parts/steps to this, but because I know you’re nervous about using the yeast, I’ll walk you through the step twice; once here and again in the actual recipe:
First, check the date on the package of the yeast to make sure it’s fresh enough. Good. Now, when you warm the milk, water and oil over the stove I don’t want you to freak out if you don’t have an instant read thermometer. It won’t make or break the recipe; the senses mother nature gave you will work just fine. The temperature you’re looking for is going to be just over baby bottle warm, but not too hot that it stings your finger. So long as you don’t feel a sting, it’s not too hot.
Sprinkle the yeast on top. Then, sprinkle the sugar on top of that. Why? The sugar will speed up the proofing of the yeast. (I can’t remember where I learned that trick, but I never make bread without doing it now; it’s that effective.) Wait ten minutes. At the end of them, you should have frothy, poofed up yeast (and provided you followed my instructions, you will.)
From there, literally the only thing else you do is mix everything else together and slap it into a loaf pan. You wait a few minutes for it to rise, the you wait a few more for it to bake. Then, you’re done. No kneading. No shaping. As Ina would say “How easy was that?”
This obviously looks nothing like traditional round English muffins, but I like to think that this bread gets its name from the inner texture. Like English muffins, it has a coarse, close-textured crumb. Because this crumb is so tight, it’s perfect for catching & pockets of butter, jam, peanut butter or anything else you want to smear on top of it. This bread makes the absolute, the MOST divine toast. It’s delicious on its own, but it was practically made for becoming thick, buttery slices of toast. Or even better yet…French-toasting.
Whatever your yeast insecurities may be, I beg you to put them aside at least enough to try this. If it doesn’t work, I give you permission to come back here and yell at me–but I’m positive you won’t. If anything you’ll be coming back to tell me I was right; you COULD bake with yeast, and this bread was SO delicious.
English Muffin Toasting Bread
- 3 cups all purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 cup milk
- 1/4 cup water
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
- Cornmeal, for sprinkling in the pan
Combine the water, milk and oil in a small saucepan and heat gently over the stove to about 120-130°F. Remove from the heat, and sprinkle the yeast on top. Sprinkle the sugar on top of that. Allow to rest until proofed and frothy, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile in a large bowl or the bowl of a standing mixer, combine the flour, salt and baking soda.
Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients. Use the paddle attachment of the standing mixer, or the beater attachment of a handheld one to mix/beat at high speed for 1 minute; the dough will be smooth and very soft. Or, you can use your hands to mix together until smooth and beginning to feel elastic, about 2-3 minutes. (It’ll still be slightly sticky)
Grease a 8 x 4 loaf pan and sprinkle the bottom with cornmeal. Scoop the soft, sticky dough into the pan and use a spatula to try and smooth out the top as much as possible.
Cover with plastic wrap and a damp towel and allow to rise until it’s just starting to crown over the pan. The timing for this can vary—mine rose VERY quickly in about 30 minutes, but if yours hasn’t, you can give it another 30. What’s important is that you don’t let it rise TOO high above the pan before baking.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F. Uncover and place loaf pan on a sheet pan and bake on the middle rack for about 20-27 minutes until bread is golden brown. Inner bread temp should reach 190-200°F.
Allow to cool for about 10-15 minutes in the pan before removing the loaf and allowing to cool completely. Serve sliced thick with butter and jam. (It’s also perfect for French toast).