Do-It-All Bread

Making bread doesn't need to be intimidating. We've created an easy and versatile recipe that can be made into a basic loaf for sandwiches and toast, a sweet loaf studded with raisins and ribbons of cinnamon-sugar for afternoon tea or snacks or a savory pull-apart loaf that's addictively cheesy and great for a crowd. After testing different methods (such as hand kneading versus electric mixer), we found that using a mixer yielded a dough that was strong enough to hold a loaf shape but remain tender.
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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 5 hr (includes rising and cooling times)
  • Active: 30 min
  • Yield: 1 loaf
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Ingredients

Basic Loaf:

Nonstick cooking spray, for the bowl and loaf pan

1 cup water, warmed to 105 to 115 degrees F

1/4 cup whole milk, warmed to 105 to 115 degrees F, plus 1 teaspoon for brushing

2 tablespoons sugar

One 1/4-ounce package active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)

3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (see Cook's Note)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

Cinnamon-Raisin Loaf:

3/4 cup raisins

1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons whole milk, plus 1 teaspoon for brushing

Ham and Havarti Pull-Apart Loaf:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 tablespoons thinly sliced scallions

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon minced garlic

8 ounces thinly sliced Havarti cheese (see Cook's Note)

8 ounces thinly sliced Black Forest ham

1 teaspoon whole milk

Directions

Special equipment:
A heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with a dough hook
  1. For the basic loaf: Lightly spray a large bowl with cooking spray and set aside.
  2. Stir together the warm water, warm milk and sugar in a medium bowl or 4-cup liquid measuring cup until the sugar is dissolved. Stir in the yeast and let stand until the mixture is foamy and the yeast is dissolved, about 5 minutes. 
  3. Whisk together the flour and salt in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. With the mixer on medium-low speed, slowly add the yeast mixture and beat until fully incorporated. The dough will be shaggy. Add the butter and increase the mixer speed to medium high. Beat until the dough is smooth, elastic and pulls away from the sides of the bowl, about 15 minutes. (The dough will become wet and sticky and then come back together as gluten forms.) Turn the dough out from the bowl and gently shape into a ball. Place inside the prepared bowl and turn to coat in the cooking spray. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours (see Cook's Note).
  4. Lightly spray a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray and line with parchment, leaving a 3-inch overhang on each of the longer sides. 
  5. Once the dough has doubled in size, remove the plastic wrap and save for the next rise. Lightly flour the work surface and punch the dough down. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough out into an approximately 8-by-14-inch rectangle, with a shorter side facing you. Starting at this end, roll the dough away from you into a tight log, then pinch the seam and ends to seal. Place into the prepared loaf pan seam-side down, then tuck the ends of the dough under and gently press the top of the loaf with the palm of your hand to make the top even. Loosely cover with the reserved plastic wrap and allow to rise in a warm place until puffy and domed about 1 inch above the rim of the pan, 30 minutes to 1 hour.  
  6. At this point, the loaf can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours covered tightly with plastic wrap; before proceeding, loosen the wrap and let rise at room temperature until an indentation made with your finger remains in the dough.  
  7. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  
  8. Use a pastry brush to gently coat the top of the dough with the remaining 1 teaspoon milk. If there are any large bubbles on the surface of the dough, carefully prick to deflate them before baking. Bake, rotating halfway through, until golden brown and the interior of the loaf registers 210 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, about 50 minutes. Allow the loaf to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan using the parchment overhang. Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing. 
  9. For the cinnamon-raisin loaf: Make the basic loaf dough as instructed above, beating in the raisins with an electric mixer on medium-low speed until evenly distributed before removing the dough from the bowl.  
  10. After the dough has risen for the first time, mix the sugar, cinnamon and 2 tablespoons milk in a small bowl until combined. 
  11. Once the dough has been rolled out to a rectangle, use a small offset or rubber spatula to spread the cinnamon-sugar filling all over the surface of the dough, making sure to go all the way to the edges. Roll into a tight log and proceed with the recipe.  
  12. For the ham and Havarti pull-apart loaf: Make the basic loaf dough as instructed above and form into a ball.  
  13. After the dough has risen for the first time, mix together the butter, scallions, Dijon and garlic in a small bowl until combined.  
  14. Once the dough has been rolled out to a rectangle, use a small offset or rubber spatula to spread the butter mixture all over the surface of the dough, making sure to go all the way to the edges. Top with the Havarti, overlapping slightly to cover completely. Layer the ham evenly on top of the cheese.  
  15. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the dough lengthwise into 3 strips, each about 4 inches wide. Cut each strip into four 4-inch squares. Stack the squares on top of each other, flipping the final square dough-side out. This will ensure the cheese melts on the inside of the loaf. Carefully place the stacked dough on its side into the prepared pan so the squares are shingled inside. Loosely cover with the reserved plastic wrap and allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes while the oven preheats to 350 degrees F.  
  16. Gently brush the top of the loaf with the milk. Place a baking sheet lined with foil on the bottom rack of the oven to catch any cheese that may drip off. Bake the loaf, rotating halfway through, until golden brown and the interior of the loaf registers 200 degrees F, about 1 hour. Allow the loaf to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from the pan and serve warm.  

Cook’s Note

When measuring flour, we spoon it into a dry measuring cup and level off excess. (Scooping directly from the bag compacts the flour, resulting in dry baked goods.)  Depending on the temperature and humidity of the kitchen, rising time may vary. Use visual cues as a guide to determine readiness. Try swapping out the Havarti and ham with these suggested pairings: prosciutto and provolone, French baked ham with Gruyere and Monterey Jack, sliced maple-glazed ham and sharp Cheddar.

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