While I knead the dough by hand, I'm reminded of the Proverbs 31 woman. Verse 17 says, "She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms." Get out your ingredients, strengthen your arms and enjoy some hot, fresh bread and croutons.
Classic White Bread (makes 2 loaves)
6-7 cups all-purpose or bread flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons shortening
2 packages regular or quick active dry yeast (4 1/2 teaspoons)
2 1/4 cups very warm water (120-130 degrees F)
2 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted, if desired
1. In large bowl, stir 3 1/2 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt, shortening and yeast until well mixed. Add warm water. Beat with electric mixer on low speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Beat on medium speed 1 minute, scraping bowl frequently. Stir in enough remaining flour, 1 cup at a time, to make dough easy to handle.
2. Place dough on lightly floured surface. Knead about 10 minutes or until dough is smooth and springy. Grease large bowl with shortening. Place dough in bowl, turning dough to grease all sides. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place 40-60 minutes or until dough has doubled in size. Dough is ready if indentation remains when touched.
3. Grease bottoms and sides of two 8x4-inch or 9x5-inch loaf pans with shortening or spray with cooking spray.
4. Gently push fist into dough to deflate. Divide dough in half. Flatten each half with hands or rolling pin into 18x9-inch rectangle on lightly floured surface. Roll dough up tightly, beginning at 9-inch side. Press with thumbs to seal after each turn. Pinch edge of dough into roll to seal. Pinch each end of roll to seal. Fold ends under loaf. Place seam side down in pan. Brush loaves lightly with butter. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place 35 to 50 minutes or until dough has doubled in size.
5. Move oven rack to low position so that tops of pans will be in center of oven. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
6. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until loaves are deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove from pans to wire rack. Brush loaves with butter; cool.
And now for the crouton recipe...although I used fresh bread for this, you can use bread that's been in the fridge for a while, or even use hamburger or hot dog buns! (it really works.:)
6 slices of bread
1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
sprinkling of garlic salt (to taste)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cube bread into desired size and toss into a bowl. Sprinkle all of the seasonings on top of your bread cubes. Drizzle olive oil over the cubes and then toss gently with your fingers. When all pieces have been coated, put cubes into a single layer on a cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for twenty minutes. Allow to cool. Place in airtight container and these can be stored for up to weeks in this container.