If you are new to the world of homemade bread, then you may feel a little anxious about getting started. Remember that making your own bread is not a new concept. People who didn’t know the world was round or that gravity existed made their own bread and without modern conveniences. Bread transitioned from unleavened bread (just flour and water) to breads with at least four essential ingredients: flour, water, salt, and a leavener (yeast or yeast-like substance). Bread is also very forgiving and versatile. Trust me, you are fully capable! There are a few myths about making bread that I want to squash before we get started. Here are the shocking truths:
· You can use stainless steel bowls to make bread dough. Avoid aluminum though.
· There is no set rising time for bread — in fact, the longer the rise — the better tasting the bread.
· You can make up dough and freeze or refrigerate it for later use.
· Yeast can last quite a while if you just refrigerate it in a Ziploc container.
· You do not have to follow the recipe word for word. Substitute ingredients!
· Proofing is an inexact science… sometimes the yeast takes a while to foam!
· Any bread recipe can be made into dinner rolls.
· You do not need a moist towel to cover you bread while it rises. The dough can (and will) stick to the towel and could ruin your fun. Drape the bowl with plastic wrap that’s been sprayed with nonstick cooking spray.
· You can reduce the amount of oil in most recipes without harming the bread and adding salt after the first rise (or just before baking if using instant yeast) makes your bread rise much higher.
· Buying yeast in bulk is a good idea. One and a half tablespoons of yeast is in each packet so just measure right out of your Ziploc container.
· Bread machines do not knead as well as a dough hook on a mixer or even your own hands. Bread from a bread machine simply cannot compete because of its texture. Trust me.
· You can rush the rising of the bread by letting it rise in a warm place or doubling the yeast.
Interestingly, the majority of Americans are quite impressed when you present them with homemade bread. They will think that you are an amazing chef and ask you repeatedly how you did it without the use of a bread machine. A loaf of bread paired with honey butter, garlic-herb butter, or any canned spread (preserves, jam, jelly, etc.) makes a beautiful present for any occasion. If you can work a crock pot, you can make bread. You will also notice that your grocery bill will slim down considerably. Think about how much money you spend each week on items like sandwich loaves, dinner rolls, pizza dough, and bagels.
A Simple Yeast Bread Recipe
5 cups white flour
1 cup wheat flour
½ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
2 Tablespoons honey
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ Tablespoons yeast or use 3 tsp. baking powder + 1/4 tsp. baking soda
2 ½ cups hot tap water
1.) Measure out your flour and place it in a bowl and set it aside. Put the sugar into your mixer and pour the hot water over it and beat with a whisk until dissolved. Test the water temperature on your wrist. Wait until the water is warm (about 70 degrees) and stir in the yeast.
2.) Once the yeast has turned into a thick tan-colored foam (proofed), add the oil and honey. Use your mixer to stir ingredients.
3.) Now begin adding the flour one cup (or handful) at a time while your mixer is on a low setting. After nearly all the flour has been added, turn off the mixer and let the dough rest for a few minutes. (This is a good time to put in a load of laundry or something.)
4.) Use the dough hook on your mixer to knead the dough for a few minutes. The dough should be sticky but smooth. Spray the bowl of your mixer (or any bowl that is not aluminum) with cooking spray, shape the dough into a ball, and let it rest for 20 minutes while covered. After 20 minutes, knead in the salt by hand or with the mixer. Place the ball into the oiled bowl. Turn the dough once to coat. Sit on the couch and eat bonbons or mix up a jug of mojitos — something.
6.) Punch (gently) the center of the dough and divide in half. Shape each ball of dough into loaves, folding the salt in evenly, and place in greased loaf pans. Spray top of dough with cooking spray or that nifty olive oil sprayer thingy that I decided to marry unbeknownst to Josh.
7.) Let loaves rise until doubled. Pop any bubbles on the surface of the dough. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. You may want to place a sheet of foil over the loaf for the last 5 to 10 minutes. Up to you.
Now, enjoy it. Bask in your own glory for a moment. You baked bread. Not just any bread — but delicious bread that will win wars, prevent forest fires, and silence Nancy Grace. Okay, maybe none of that. Especially the Nancy Grace part. But if I’d only been a beauty queen, y’all. I’d have had a killer speech.
NOTE: Some of you may have seen this as a page on my old site. Also, a “bread and butter play” is a football cliche. If you are a football fan, smile because I am speaking your language, buddy.