Monday, January 4, 2010

HOMEMADE BREAD

For my first official post on this new blog I thought I'd share how to make homemade bread. I am feeling the need to get more nutrition into our food lately, as well as learn the art of making things from scratch that I have taken for granted by buying from the store my whole life. I was really intimidated by the whole process when I began looking for recipes to try my hand at. I found a no-knead beer bread to try thinking that would be an easy way to start. That was a disaster both times I tried. This bread, however, is very easy. And the satisfaction of doing it myself is priceless. Plus, my guys really love it! Let's get started, shall we?

Start with 1 1/4 c. very warm (not hot) water in a bowl. Add 1/3 c. sugar and 1 TBSP. yeast. Stir, then let set 5 - 10 min. until the yeast is proven by becoming bubbly. If it's not - throw it out and try a new batch. Better to waste 10 minutes and 3 ingredients than to ruin a whole loaf of bread. I didn't get a picture of the proven yeast (bad blogger!) but you'll see it in a minute in the flour.
While your waiting on your yeast to activate get out a big bowl and add 2 3/4 c. flour. You can add it how you like. White flour will give you white bread (duh!). All whole wheat flour will give you a dense wheat bread. You can also do a 1/2 and 1/2 mix of white/wheat. Whatever - this recipe is very forgiving. I have been doing it a little differently. Because I want to infuse more nutrition into the bread - I have been grinding up flax seeds and oats in a coffee grinder to make flour to mix into the bread.





The ratio I used for this loaf of bread was; 1 c. whole wheat flour, 1/2 c. ground flax seeds, 1/2 c. ground oats and 3/4 c. white flour.
You will also need to add 1/4 c. vital wheat gluten (found in the baking aisle), 1 tsp. salt, 1 tsp. baking powder and 2 TBSP. dry milk.



This is what my dry ingredients looked like. Mix these all together and make a well in the center.


Add 1 TBSP. melted butter and 1 TBSP. vinegar.


By now your yeast should be nice and frothy. Add it to the well with the butter and vinegar. You can see how foamy mine got in the picture above.


Mix all of this together until you have a sticky ball of dough. Lightly flour your clean, dry counter or board and dump the dough out on it. Begin to knead it for 8 - 10 minutes, adding flour as needed. Don't skimp on the kneading time - it is vital to develop the gluten strands so you get a nice loaf of bread.
You could do this in your stand mixer. I prefer to do it by hand. I find that I can tell better how much flour to add by handling the dough myself. But, you do it how you prefer. Tomato, tomahto... I also find it kind of therapeutic. Call me weird, I know...



By the time your 10 minutes are up you should have a nice ball of dough. See the difference a few minutes can make?


Now, pour about 1 tsp. of olive oil in the bottom of your bowl and put your ball of dough in there and roll it around to cover the ball in oil - lightly please. :0) You'll also want to cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap that has been lightly sprayed with PAM. If your house is cold - do the plastic wrap.
Since it's frickin' cold outside right now I have a hard time keeping the house warm enough to get a good rise out of my dough. An easy remedy is to turn my oven on about 225 - 250 degrees and set my bowl on the stove top. It's just warm enough to give me a good rise without cooking my bread.



Let the dough rise until it's doubled in size. This will take anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the temperature. I probably let this go a little longer than double but, it didn't make a difference.
Punch the dough down and knead for 2 more minutes. Roll it into a cigar shape and dampen the log with cold water. This will give you a nice crust. You can also roll the log in nuts, seeds or oats to get some more nutrition in there and make it pretty. I rolled mine in oats. It's what I had.



Now you're ready to place the dough into a lightly sprayed loaf pan for the final rise. Don't forget to cover it back up with your plastic wrap. Just use the same piece you did before. Let it rise until it's about an inch or so above your pan. This will take anywhere from another 30 minutes to an hour.
When it looks like it's getting close to the height you want it to be for the oven - go ahead and and raise the oven temp to 425 degrees.



Yeah, Baby! It's ready for the oven. A little side note here; you want a hot oven for your bread to get a good rise. I first tried recipes that said to bake at 350 degrees. That did not work for me. The inside stayed doughy while the outside got too dark. Upon further research I found that most recipes call for a 450 - 500 degree oven for 10 minutes and then drop the temp down to 400 degrees. I have a glass loaf pan, though, that can only go in an oven up to 425 degrees. So, I compromise.
Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes, then, without open the oven drop the temperature down to 395 degrees for 15 minutes longer. Mmmmm...smell that heavenly aroma?
Check for doneness by tapping on the bottom of the loaf. It should give you a hollow sound. I now know what that sounds like because of my first doughy loaves.



If you have an ounce of will power, let it cool completely before slicing. If you don't - grab some butter and dig in!


This is delicious fresh from the oven slathered in butter. But, if you want to use it for sandwiches or toast, it slices sooo much better once it's completely cooled.
I want to encourage to give making bread from scratch a try. It's not a lot of hands on time for the process. Most of the time involved is waiting - waiting for the bread to rise, waiting the bread to bake. You will want to wait to do this until you have a morning or an evening when you'll be home, though. I get a lot accomplished during those waiting sessions. Or, you can eat bon bons and watch your shows while you're waiting. Whatever... My point is - the flavor, nutrition and satisfaction from a home baked loaf of bread just can't be beat! Your family will hug you and squeeze you and kiss you all over for it!
Happy Homemaking!
*Update: I baked another loaf of bread yesterday and completely eliminated the white flour. With the addition of ground flax seeds and oats - it was still very soft. Also, I replaced the sugar with raw honey to activate the yeast and it worked perfectly. Now, not only does not have the bad sugar - it has the benefits that raw honey adds.

Also, the vital wheat gluten can be eliminated with this amount of good kneading.

5 comments:

Kari said...

Great post - but I wish I could have read more of it.

Dunno if you noticed, but the text oozes over onto the black and white design making it unreadable. :(

Kari said...

Great post - but I wish I could have read more of it.

Dunno if you noticed, but the text oozes over onto the black and white design making it unreadable. :(

Cassie said...

I've always been afraid of trying to make homemade bread (or homemade anything, for that matter). I'm 25 years old and am just now really learning how to cook. Thank you for this recipe! It looks so easy (and nummy!)

Becky said...

That bread looks amazing...in fact I'm pretty sure I can smell it baking!

Great new concept. I'm all signed up for this blog too. =)

~Leslie said...

Yummy!! I always enjoy making bread--the smell is awesome!