Why I Love This Recipe
From The Ballymaloe Bread Book by Tim Allen
This bread is great for breakfast and it's even better toasted and spread with jam. I also like to use it for french toast!
Ingredients You'll Need
12 fl. oz. whole milk
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 oz. fresh yeast, 1/2 oz. (about 4 1/2 tsp.) active dry yeast or 1 tbsp. instant yeast
1 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 - 2 tbsp. vanilla extract
1 lb., 3 oz. (4 3/4 cups, flour sifted into cup) all-purpose flour
Pour the milk into a 2-quart or larger saucepan, add the vanilla bean (both the seeds and the scraped-out hull) and heat until the milk is scalded. Remove the bean hull and pour the milk into a large mixing bowl. Let cool to tepid and remove the skin that forms on the surface of the milk. (This scalding and skimming of the milk is my own adaptation to Chef Allen’s recipe. The skin is casein protein, which can coarsen the crumb; heating the milk denatures the casein and coagulates it into an easily-removable skin.) Add the yeast and let dissolve for 5 minutes. Add the sugar, salt, vanilla extract and four tablespoons of the flour. Beat briskly for 2 minutes. Add the rest of the flour (or enough flour to make a soft, manageable dough), turn out onto a lightly-floured board and knead for about three minutes. Cover the dough and let it rest for 10 minutes, then resume kneading until the dough is smooth and elastic. Form the dough into a round, place it into an oiled or buttered bowl, cover and leave to rise until doubled, about 2 hours.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (Gas Mark 8) and place an oven rack to the center position. Turn the risen dough out of the bowl, knock it down and form it into either two small torpedoes or one large one. Place the loaves on a parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about one hour. Brush the loaves with an egg wash (I like a whole egg with a little cream beaten into it, but you can use any wash you like—an egg yolk with a little water and a pinch of salt makes a beautiful crust), slash the tops of the loaves lengthwise, place the loaves in the oven and turn the heat down to 375 degrees. Bake for about 45-50 minutes; this should be more than sufficient for the small loaves, but you may need an additional 5 minutes for the large loaf. At either size, when the loaves are golden brown all over and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom, they are done.