There has been a nasty stomach bug going around our preschool (and hey, if that’s not a good lead-in for a food blog then I don’t know what is). It hit our house, or rather our car, last Friday, just as the boys and I were backing out of the driveway. We were planning to visit the tidepools, have a picnic, and maybe watch The Mavericks. But then Lucas said “Mommy? I’m not hungry for lunch.” What happened next … well. Two days later we gave up and bought Lucas a new car seat.
Not much good comes of being sick. But the morning after he was done emptying his stomach, Jacob sat up and looked at me. “Mommy,” he said, and despite his pallor there was a gleam in his eye. “I think Lucas and I need Jello. And Daddy’s kind of juice*. And popsicles. And good white bread. The homemade kind.” His last serious stomach bug was over two years ago, but clearly the recovery menu made an impression. So I helped them onto a towel-draped couch, set up a Sparkle Story, and gave them their water bottles, filled with watered down electrolyte-sugar-dye. And then I made the dough.
A couple hours later, bread warm from the oven, Jacob sighed happily. “I love recuperating,” he said.
“Me too,” Lucas chimed in. “Mommy, I feeling better now.”
* No, not Pliny or Hop Devil; I mean watered down red Gatorade. The kids don’t run in the mornings like Kyle, but I half-way think they would if we promised them sports drinks every day.
Good White Bread, for recuperating
This is a basic white bread, with a couple little additions to make it restorative for kids who’ve been on a diet of Jello and popsicles. I add butter and an egg to give it a little extra protein and caloric heft, and use a tiny bit of white whole wheat flour that you’d never guess at from the soft “white” crumb. My friend Liz taught me this technique of using warm melted butter in dough and mixing it (along with the warm water) into a couple cups of flour; her theory is that mixing the dough up this way (instead of letting the yeast proof, then mixing, then autolyzing, then kneading) gives you a fast-mixing dough that rises relatively quickly. Since we’re not looking for a complex flavor profile, and since this bread doesn’t use a large percentage of whole grain flour, we can mix the dough this way and skip the rest period and use a shortened rise time. It results in a bread that is easy to make but still really delicious, with a nice soft crumb great for kids, and also great for toast.
I should add that while it is best to let this bread cool completely so the crumb sets up, I did let the guys cut into one loaf steamy-warm, and they pretty much demolished it. The other loaf kept for about two days on the counter, in a leftover wax-paper bag from a bakery loaf; it makes delicious toast, and once the guys’ tummies were fully functioning again they slathered it with butter and their favorite jam.
1 envelope active dry yeast (or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
Scant 2 cups of very warm water
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup white whole wheat flour
4-5 cups all-purpose or bread flour
1 tablespoon brown or white sugar
3 teaspoons kosher salt
In the bowl of your stand mixer, fork together 1 cup white whole wheat flour with 1 cup bread flour, plus the sugar, salt, and yeast. Add the water and melted butter, and mix at low speed until they just come together. Raise the mixer to high speed, and mix for three minutes. Add the egg and another 1/2 cup flour and mix for another three minutes. Stir in 2- 3 cups flour, a 1/2 cup at a time. You should have a very soft and slightly sticky dough. Switching to your bread hook, knead the dough in the mixer for about five minutes; it should come together and start cleaning the sides of the bowl after about two minutes. (If it still seems very sticky, you can add a little bit more flour.) Once the dough is very smooth and elastic, it’s ready to rise.
(If you prefer, after adding the flour you can knead by hand for about 10 minutes, or until dough is smooth and elastic, adding a little more flour as necessary.)
Place the dough in a large buttered bowl (I usually wipe out and butter my mixing bowl and just reuse it for rising), turning the dough around the bowl to butter all sides. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for about one hour, or until it is basically doubled. (In these colder weather days, I often let the bowl sit on or next to my stovetop – steam from a kettle can help move things along …) Punch the dough down and knead it again until smooth. Cut the dough into two pieces, and let them sit on the counter for about 15 minutes, covered with the dish towel. While it rests, butter two loaf pans.
Roll one piece of dough into a roughly rectangular shape, with one edge about the length of your bread pan. (An approximate12x9-inch rectangle.) Starting from the 9-inch edge, roll up the dough. Tuck the ends under and fit the dough, seam side down, into one of your greased loaf pans. Repeat with the second piece of dough.
Cover the pans with your towel and let rise for 30 minutes, while you preheat your oven to 400 F. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when you tap the bottoms lightly. (You can remove them from the pans and bake directly on the racks if they need an extra minute or two.)
Let cool on racks for at least one hour before slicing. (Or not. But the crumb sets up much better that way.)