I am not a timid cook; I'm usually confident that I can follow even a complicated recipe and get a pretty good result. I've baked before. But bread still made me a little nervous. Deb at Smitten Kitchen has a couple of very good and encouraging posts about bread making and when I read the early one featuring dill bread from the Joy of Cooking, I was hooked. I made a few changes to the recipe based on what I had in the fridge, and I've got to say it is STELLAR.
Studded with bits of onion and savory dill, it fills the house with this amazing, inviting, yeasty aroma. Plus, the tactile pleasure if kneading dough cannot be denied. The key is not to worry that you're doing it wrong, just keep pushing the dough around until it comes together. It's quite a shaggy dough at first, but keep your hands floury and eventually you can maneuver it into a nice soft ball.
Toss it in an oiled bowl, and let it rise for an hour and a half or so in a warm place, or until you can poke it and the hole stays in place. My apartment is on the cool side, so I usually turn the oven on very low for a couple of minutes (my oven has a 'warm' setting of 170 degrees) then shut it off (that part is important!) and let the dough rise in the warm oven.
Then you take it out, pat it about a little to let some of the air out, and finagle it into a vaguely loafy shape, and put it in the greased loaf pan and let it rise again. I put it back in the warm oven and in 45 minutes it was threatening to rise out of the pan and take over my kitchen. I tapped the pan gently on the counter and it deflated enough to fit back in the pan - this might not be a step you need to take, but I wanted to make room for the melted butter. Butter is very important to me.
Oh and guys, if you made that meatloaf? And this bread? And you have a couple slices of cheese? Hooo boy, have you got one AMAZING meatloaf sandwich in your future. Please, I beg you, do make a sandwich on this bread, even if it's just turkey. And if you make a turkey sandwich, might I suggest you put mustard and cucumbers on it? A few weeks ago I spent an entire lunch hour NOT participating in conversation, because all I could say was, "This turkey sandwich is so good. This bread is so good. This turkey sandwich is so good. This bread is so good."
I don't have a stand mixer, but you could use it if you do!
Makes one 9×5-inch loaf
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (one package)
1/2 cup warm water (105 - 115 degrees)
3 cups bread flour
1/2 a medium red onion, finely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup large-curd cottage cheese
1/2 cup sour cream
For top of bread (optional but oh so recommended!)
1 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
Combine yeast and water in a small bowl and let stand until the yeast is dissolved, about five minutes.
Combine flour, onion, dill, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast, cottage cheese, sour cream and egg. Mix with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together, addition additional flour or warm water if needed. Knead for about 10 minutes by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic.
Transfer to an oiled bowl and turn it over once to coat with oil. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. If you poke it with your fingers, it should retain the hole instead of springing right back into place.
Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan. Press the dough down to de-gas, form into a loaf and place seam side down in the pan. Cover with oiled plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. (Make sure you take the bread out first, if you're letting it rise in there!) Brush the top of loaf with melted butter, and then sprinkle with the additional salt.
Bake until the crust is golden brown and the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about 35 to 40 minutes.
Take the bread's temperature - it should be around 200 degrees. Remove the loaf from the pan to a rack and let cool completely.
Please, please, make a sandwich with this bread.