- 1.5 cups whole milk, warmed to approximately 110 degrees -- not hot; you don't want to kill the yeast; just warm enough to provide an ideal temperature for the yeast to do its job
- 2 teaspoons (a bit less than one envelope) active dry yeast
- 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons brown butter*
- 2.5-3 cups all-purpose flour
combine the milk, yeast, sugar and salt in a bowl. add the brown butter after it's cooled for a few minutes (but still liquid; not a solid -- just not burning hot), then stir in 2 cups of the flour and beat the batter for a few minutes with a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment of an electric mixer. anywhere from two minutes (by mixer) to five minutes (by hand) is fine -- get it totally smooth and activate the gluten a bit. add another half cup of flour and mix in, then keep adding flour, tablespoon by tablespoon, until it reaches a texture somewhere between a pourable batter and regular bread dough. you should still be able to stir it by spoon (don't add so much flour that it must be kneaded by hand), but not too easily. the best description I can come up with is that the batter should be "scoop-able;" sort of able to hold its shape as you scoop it out with a spoon, but still sticky, and by no means stiff. more solid than pancake batter, but looser than cookie dough, plus it should be sticky and stringy because of the gluten development. don't worry too much -- there's room for error in both the consistency and the mixing time (more than you'd think).
so! scoop it out into a buttered 9x5" loaf pan, cover with plastic wrap and set aside to rise for an hour. when it's time to bake, pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees F and bake for 40-50 minutes; until the internal temperature reaches 190-205 degrees F, measured by instant-read thermometer (I know Deb from Smitten Kitchen calls for the bread to be baked to 210 degrees F, but I found it just a bit too dry. I am also aware that her recipes instructs you to lower the heat to 375 degrees F after putting the loaf in the oven, but I prefer the crustiness that develops when baked at 400 degrees F.)
*brown butter (or beurre noisette) is just butter that's been heated slowly, so that the milk solids brown and undergo the Maillard reaction, which creates a whole new world of more complex, toasty delicious flavor. to make it, just place unsalted butter in a saucepan or saute pan, and heat over medium-low heat until the milk solids in the butter cook and change color, deepening to somewhere between golden brown and deep, rich (but not dark!) brown. "noisette" is French for hazelnut, and the color of the hazelnut is pretty much the color you're aiming for when you brown the butter. keep the heat medium-low, and as soon as you reach the desired color, take the pan off the heat and pour directly into your recipe, or into a container to stop the cooking. burnt butter is not what you want. on the off chance your butter smokes and/or turns deep brown/black, throw it out, clean the pan and try again.