Confession #104: I’m Defenseless to Great Bread… Poppy Seed Loaves
In the face of a nice, thick slab of warm homemade bread, I melt like butter. If you’ve ever taken a freshly baked loaf of bread, cut off a hearty slice, spread a little butter on it to ooze and melt, and sunk you’re teeth down into that first, mouthwatering bite, you know what I mean. It’s like heaven in bread form.
On the other hand, if your bread-eating experiences have been limited to the sad little plastic-wrapped loaves you pick up at the grocery store, you’ve been deprived in life, and I’m really sorry for you. Good bread is the kind you get at a local bakery, a great restaurant, or best of all, out of your own oven. It’s the kind that greets you with its intoxicating aroma before you take a single bite, the kind where texture and flavor work together in perfection. And as much as you might know that I love all things chocolate, I don’t know if I’ve really told you guys how much I love good ol’ bread in all of its not-sweet glory. That changes today.
These Poppy Seed Loaves are one of my favorite. breads. ever. Sometimes I’m dramatic, but not today; this is serious. Along with sourdough and beer bread, it’s one of the few savory bread recipes I’ve made multiple times and will continue to make, over and over, because it’s just that good. It’s simple and comforting and packed with flavor, and it lets poppy seeds shine in a way they don’t often get to do. The crumb is incredibly soft and tender, the crust is perfectly golden, and the poppy seeds, with their slightly nutty flavor, make every bite incredible.
This bread would be perfect a million different ways – toasted and served with a fried egg, used in a sandwich, or enjoyed on its own, with some warm butter melting into its airy crumb. Heck, even without the butter, it’s a winner. Point being – put this on your t0-bake list. And if you’ve never made homemade bread before, here’s a chance to start. This recipe is simple, it’s tried-and-true, and it makes some fantastic bread.
This savory Poppy Seed Bread has a light, tender crumb and a perfectly golden crust. Riddled with poppy seeds, it's the perfect bread for toasting, making sandwiches, or just enjoying on its own.
- generous 1/2 cup warm water, plus a bit more if needed
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
- 1 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 1 1/4 cups milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 6 cups bread flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 5 tablespoons poppy seeds (1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon)**
- 1/2 egg white
- 1 teaspoon water
- In a large bowl, add 1 teaspoon granulated sugar to water and stir in to dissolve. Sprinkle the yeast on top and continue to stir until the yeast is mostly dissolved/incorporated. Let sit for 5-10 minutes, until foamy (signifying that the yeast has been activated).
- Meanwhile, combine the milk and butter in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave just long enough to warm the milk and melt the butter, about 30 seconds. Stir to combine, and allow to cool slightly while the yeast is foaming up. You want the mixture to be warm but not hot.
- Add the milk and butter mixture to the yeast mixture, stirring it in slowly. Add the flour on top, followed by the remaining 2 teaspoons granulated sugar, salt, and poppy seeds. Stir together until the mixture turns into a rough and shaggy dough. Then, use your hands to finish kneading all of the ingredients together. If needed, add a bit more water a tablespoon at a time to incorporate everything into a fairly moist dough (it should be neither dry nor sticky).
- Place the dough in a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment and knead with the machine until you have a soft, fairly smooth, and more elastic dough.*** Shape into a ball with a smooth top and place in a bowl greased with cooking spray.**** Turn the dough over once to coat the top with spray as well. Cover with greased plastic wrap and allow to rise until doubled (1 1/2 - 2 hours).
- Once risen, punch down the dough gently and divide it into the number of loaves you plan to make. I used 4 mini loaf pans, each measuring 5-1/4" by 2-1/2", and I used the remaining dough to make a small, free-form round. If you have mini loaf pans that are a slightly different size, feel free to use them, or just make multiple round loaves.***** Lightly grease your loaf pans with cooking spray, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- For mini loaf pans, shape each piece of dough into an oblong about the length of the pan you're using, gently pulling any uneven areas on the top surface of the dough underneath so that the top of the oblong is nice and smooth. Place it in the prepared pan, smooth side up, flattening the top gently with your palm to push the dough into the corners of the pan. The dough should reach about halfway up the height of the loaf pan. Place the mini loaves on the lined baking sheet.
- For free-form round loaves, shape each piece of dough into a ball, forming a smooth top by pulling the top surface of dough outwards and under with your thumbs, pinching the dough together underneath. Place pinch-side down on the lined baking sheet along with the mini loaf pans, or spaced apart from the other rounds (if you're making multiple).
- Cover all of the loaves with a large piece of plastic wrap sprayed with cooking spray, and allow to rise until the bread has risen about an inch above the top of the mini loaf pans at its highest point, or has approximately doubled in size for the mini rounds. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400°F.
- Whisk together the egg white and water for the egg wash and brush over all of the exposed areas of the loaves just before baking. Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown and the loaves sound hollow when tapped at the base. Cool on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes before slicing, and store in an airtight ziploc-type bag.
*This bread can also be made in a bread machine. Follow your machine's instructions for the order in which to add the ingredients and use the normal setting with medium crust. Brush the egg wash on just before the beginning of the baking cycle.
** You can purchase poppy seeds online, in bulk, which seems to be a much better deal than you often find locally.
***You can also knead the dough by hand, but I recommend using a dough hook if possible with this dough; kneading by hand will take a little strength. If you choose to go the hand route, you'll need to knead the dough for a bit longer than you would with the dough hook, about 10-15 minutes.
****It's always helpful to use a bowl (for rising) that's about double the size of the unrisen dough, so you can easily gauge when the dough has risen enough.
*****You could probably also make two 8-1/2" x 4-1/2" loaves with this recipe, but you will need to increase the baking time.
Recipe Adapted From: The Complete Book of Bread and Bread Machines
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